Japanese-born British author Kazuo Ishiguro is being celebrated around the world for winning this year's Nobel Prize in Literature. The Swedish Academy cited his "novels of great emotional force".
"This is amazing and totally unexpected news for me," Ishiguro said to reporters in London. "It comes at a time when the world is uncertain about its values, its leadership and its safety. I just hope that my receiving this huge honor will, even in a small way, encourage the forces for good and peace at this time."
Born in Nagasaki, Japan, Ishiguro's family moved to Britain when he was 5, and he later became a British citizen.
Asked about his identity as an author, he said, "I'm just a writer. I have all these influences from a Japanese background and a British background. I hope my international background and I try to think internationally and to absorb influences from all over the world. "
Ishiguro's British fans are excited to hear the news. It is the first time in 10 years a British novelist has won a Nobel Prize in Literature.
One British man said, "'The remains of the Day' was the first book I read, and I really enjoyed that and I enjoyed how incredibly English it felt, although clearly he's a British writer but he's of Japanese descent and I thought he did that incredibly well."
Another called Ishiguro, "A bicultural and wide-ranging person. And so, one doesn't particularly want to see a British patriotism reflected in the Nobel Prize, but it's nice to see an openness that different cultures can suffuse each other."
Born in Japan and grew in Britain
Ishiguro was born in 1954 in Nagasaki to Japanese parents. He moved to Britain at the age of 5 when his father, an oceanographer, decided to take part in a survey of the North Sea oil fields.
Ishiguro attended local schools and studied English literature and other subjects at the University of Kent and the University of East Anglia.
Ishiguro did not return to Japan for years because his father continued to work in Britain. He became a British citizen after reaching adulthood. Ishiguro went back to Japan for the first time when he was in his 30s.
High-quality, full-length works
Ishiguro made his literary debut in 1982 with "A Pale View of Hills," set in Japan after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. The protagonist is a woman who lives resolutely in the aftermath of war.
His next novel, "An Artist of the Floating World" was published in 1986. The story depicts a pre-World War 2 Japanese painter who struggles to survive amid changed societal values after the war.
"The Remains of the Day", published in 1989, is set in a British countryside mansion after World War 2. It recalls memories of fading traditions through the eyes of an aging butler. The novel won the Booker Prize, Britain's most prestigious literary award.
"When We Were Orphans", from the year 2000, is about an orphan who grows up in London, becomes a detective and moves to China during the Japanese-Chinese War to look for his parents.
His 2005 bestseller, "Never Let Me Go," depicts a group of orphans who are raised in an institute to become organ donors. They accept their fate, yet express their desire to go on living. The novel was adapted into a film in 2010. The film was released the following year in Japan.
In 2015, Ishiguro published "The Buried Giant", a story about an elderly couple who continue their travels through Britain, facing many difficulties along the way.
Constantly pursuing the theme of human memory
Motoyuki Shibata, a translator and Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo, has interviewed Ishiguro twice.
Shibata says Ishiguro's novels have constantly pursued the theme of human memory. He says they depict the uncertainty of memories, how people fabricate memories and how they go back in time to face their memories. He says it is a theme that people around the world can relate to, which Ishiguro delivers in clearly written prose in stories well-worth reading.
As for Ishiguro's links with Japan, Shibata notes that although the author was born in Japan, he moved to Britain as a young child and knew hardly anything about his native country. He says Ishiguro's first 2 novels which were set in Japan drew on images he had picked up from watching films by Yasujiro Ozu and others. He says Ishiguro's books were about an "unknown country" of his dreams.
He says those novels were rendered with a quiet touch reminiscent of Ozu's films. He says Ishiguro's world continued to expand to the point where his stories took on a larger scale, and he no longer releases works based on his Japanese heritage.
"Ishiguro's novels Invoke sentiments shared by most people in their daily lives"
Waseda University Professor Koji Toko is a translator well-versed in English-language literature.
Toko says Ishiguro is an extremely high-level author among contemporary writers. He says it is wonderful that he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in his early 60s when most writers who receive the award are in their 70s and 80s.
Toko says Ishiguro's novels can be characterized by the way they combine concepts we consider to be outside the realms of reality, such as emotions within memories and dreams, to build a world of fantasy. He says Ishiguro is being favorably received around the world because his novels address an important theme in contemporary literature: that vague sensations such as memories, nostalgia and delusions are what constitute the reality of our lives. He says Ishiguro has pursued this theme in his works and succeeded in achieving a very high standard.
Toko says Ishiguro's novels are at the forefront of contemporary literature. But he says at the same time they invoke sentiments shared by most people in their daily lives, such as "thoughts pertaining to the lost past" and "childhood memories". He says that makes the novels easy to read and enjoy, even for people unaccustomed to reading literature.
Hayakawa Publishing Corporation prints translations of Ishiguro's works in Japan. The firm held a news conference. President Hiroshi Hayakawa said he believed Ishiguro would win the Nobel Prize in the near future, but he did not expect it to be this year. He says he was very surprised and wants to congratulate him personally as soon as possible.
Hayakawa says Ishiguro is a Briton with traditional Japanese values. He says his works attract readers because they dig deep into human nature. Hayakawa believes they reflect the author's character. He says he hopes the Nobel Prize will help more people try Ishiguro's novels and draw more readers to literature.