STOCKHOLM: Kazuo Ishiguro, the Japanese-born British novelist best known for “The Remains of the Day” and other works about memory’s pain and illusions, won the Nobel Literature Prize on Thursday.
The selection of the 62-year-old Ishiguro marked a return to citing fiction writers following two years of unconventional choices by the Swedish Academy for the 9-million-kronor ($1.1 million) prize. It also continues a recent trend of giving the award to British authors born elsewhere – V.S. Naipaul, the 2001 winner, is from Trinidad and Tobago; the 2007 honoree, Doris Lessing, was a native of Iran who grew up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
“Some of the themes that I have tried to tackle in my work – about history, about not just personal memory but the way countries and nations and communities remember their past, and how often they bury the uncomfortable memories from the past — I hope that these kinds of themes will actually be in some small way helpful to the climate we have at the moment,” Ishiguro said Thursday, speaking in his backyard in north London.
Sara Danius, the academy’s permanent secretary, praised Ishiguro as a mix of Jane Austen — “her comedy of manners and her psychological insights” — and the dark undercurrents of Kafka. The academy called Ishiguro’s eight books works of emotional force that uncover “the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.”
In “The Remains of the Day,” a million-seller that came out in 1989 and won the Booker Prize, a butler at a grand house looks back on a life in service to the aristocracy. The novel’s gentle rhythms and “Downton Abbey”-style setting gradually deepen into a haunting depiction of the repressed emotional and social landscape of 20th-century England and the deadly rise of fascism.