Tag Archives: kazuo ishiguro

2017 Nobel Prize for Literature

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Well, surprise, surprise. The good folks over at the Swedish Academy decided to give this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature to a writer! (Don’t get me started on their past choices, one of which includes awarding the prize in 1974 to Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson, both members of the Swedish Academy at the time.)

Most people will be familiar with Kazuo Ishiguro through the film adaptation of his Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The Remains of the Day, but Ishiguro has written much more than just that gem over the years. (Never Let Me Go!) In fact, I’m pretty sure all of his novels have been recipients of one award or another.

Born, quite literally, in the smoldering ashes of Nagasaki, Japan in 1954, he and his family moved to England when he was six years old. In recognition of his 35-year professional writing career, the Nobel Committee had this to say:

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2017 is awarded to the English author Kazuo Ishiguro

“who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”.

Congratulations to Mr. Ishiguro, one of only three writers I’ve ever heard the great David Mitchell says he looks up to (the other two being A.S. Byatt and Seamus Heaney).

Per my good friend Allan W.’s question, the Nobel Prize for Literature has not always been given to novelists. Aside from Robert Zimmerman winning it as a song writer, Svetlana Alexievich, a writer and journalist from Belarus, became the first nonfiction writer to win the award in half a century.

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Genre Snobbery

In an interview with David Barr Kirtley, host of the podcast “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy,” David Mitchell opened up about a few subjects, including – but not limited to – Ursula K. Le Guin, Dungeons & Dragons, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, and that very crystalline subject otherwise known as “the future.” As always, Mr. Mitchell has some insightful nuggets of barbecue sauce-laden wisdom to pass on, one of which has to do with the idea of literary genrefication.

I think it fair to say that we as people like to classify, organize, break down, label and basically separate anything and everything into smaller and smaller groups. We do it in the humanities, the arts, and the sciences. It’s meant to help us understand and categorize larger units of information and make it more readily accessible, whether as bits of memory or as books at a library.

Yet David Mitchell takes exception to using labels in the literary world to strictly isolate one branch of writing from another. As the author of little-known works such as Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks puts it:

It’s convenient to have a science fiction and fantasy section, it’s convenient to have a mainstream literary fiction section, but these should only be guides, they shouldn’t be demarcated territories where one type of reader belongs and another type of reader does not belong…It’s a bizarre act of self-mutilation to say that ‘I don’t get on with science fiction and fantasy, therefore I’m never going to read any. What a shame. All those great books that you’re cutting yourself off from.

So true. Click here to read the full article on wired.com, entitled, “Genre Snobbery Is a ‘Bizarre Act of Self-Mutilation’.”

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