Kazuo Ishiguro was rewarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in literature. The Swedish Academy praised Ishiguro for his emotional novels. The Academy said the novels “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.”
The Nobel Prize in literature has been awarded since 1901 for the writing of an author who has produced the most outstanding work. Ishiguro was up against more well-known novelists including Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale and Haruki Murakami, author of Norwegian Wood making this a surprise choice for some. Last year the Nobel Prize in literature was awarded to singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.
The writer said that winning the prize was “amazing and totally unexpected news.” He also tweeted for the third time ever on his current account after winning the prize.
Here’s what you need to know about Ishiguro:
1. He was Born in Japan and Raised in the UK
Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1954. He lived in Japan until he was 5 years old, when his family decided to move to England so that his father could begin research at the National Institute of Oceanography. His father, Shizuo Ishiguro, was an oceanographer and his mother, Shizuko Ishiguro, was a stay-at-home mother raising Ishiguro and his two sisters.
When he was young, Ishiguro attended Woking Country Grammar School in Surrey. After graduating, he took a gap year to travel the United States and Canada while keeping a journal that he may have referenced to write some of his later novels.
Ishiguro studied creative writing at the University of East Anglia where he obtained his Master of Arts in Creative Writing in 1980. In 1982, Ishiguro published his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, in 1982. That year he became a British citizen and he has been a full-time writer ever since.
2. His First Novel was A Pale View of the Hills
In 1982, Ishiguro published his first novel two years after receiving his master’s degree. The novel won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for the book shortly after publishing it. The prize is rewarded for the best regional novel of the year.
The novel is the story of Etsuko, a Japanese woman living alone in England and dealing with the recent suicide of her daughter. The main character reflects on her own life a a young woman in Japan and how she left that country to live in England.
It could be said that Ishiguro was reflecting on his own life or the life of his mother in this novel. As he continued to write, his novels became more fantastical. While his first novel isn’t his most well-known, it sets the tone for the rest of his novels. Most of them focus on young women who feel separated from the world around them. He’s been praised for the emotional depth of these novels.
3. He Wants to Get Into Comics
After winning the Nobel Prize for literature, Ishiguro held a press conference and gave a short speech about how it felt to win the prize and what it meant for him. Ishiguro is a full-time writer, so he’s always looking for something new to write about when he’s in between projects.
I’m always working on a novel, but I’m hoping to collaborate on comics – not superheroes. But I’m in discussions with people to work on a graphic novel, which excites me because it’s new for me and it reunited me with my childhood, reading manga
Apart from his current 8 books, Ishiguro has worked on songs, plays and other scripts, so it’s not unlikely that he could break into other forms of literature in the near future. He says he’s currently working on a graphic novel.
4. He Will be Rewarded $1.1 Million by the King of Sweden
In December, Ishiguro will be rewarded over $1 million by the King of Sweden for winning the Nobel Prize.
The amount of prize money rewarded depends upon how much money the Nobel Foundation can award each year. In 2009, the reward was about $1.4 million. Last year, prize winners included roughly $923,000. The gold medals themselves are worth anywhere between $700,000 and $4.7 million depending on the auction.
The prize money can be traced back to Alfred Nobel, who stipulated that his estate continue to accrue in value via investments starting in 1895. The money is taken out of that fund to reward to prize winners annually.
5. He Has Published 7 Novels & 1 Collection of Short Stories
Ishiguro has published 8 books today, including a collection of short stories called Nocturnes. He has also worked on 4 screenplays and different short stories, some of which were published in The New Yorker. Ishiguro wrote lyrics for Stacey Kent’s 2007 and 2013 albums. All of the books share emotional depth and feature similar themes regarding memories.
Only two of Ishiguro’s novels feature Japan as the main setting. He said in an interview that he felt using Japan as the imaginary world that was in his head wasn’t fair since it wasn’t the real Japan. He also said he wasn’t like British people because he was brought up by Japanese parents who spoke almost exclusively in Japanese at home. He says that because of his different backgrounds, he’s able to think differently and utilize different perspectives than most people.
One of his most well-known novels, The Remains of Day, won Ishiguro a Booker prize in 1989. The book was adapted for film in 1994 and starred Anthony Hopkins.