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Kazuo Ishiguro, the guest on this episode of The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, is one of the world’s greatest living novelists — and a newly Oscar-nominated screenwriter, as well, for his adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru into the script for Oliver Hermanus’ 2022 film Living.
A Japanese-born Brit, Ishiguro has written eight novels over the last 41 years which have collectively sold more than 2.5 million copies in the U.S alone, most notably 1989’s The Remains of the Day, which was awarded the prestigious Booker Prize, and 2005’s Never Let Me Go, which Time chose as one of the 100 greatest English-language novels since 1923 and the Los Angeles Times described as “probably, thus far, the most important English-language novel of the new century.” (Both were adapted, by others, into highly acclaimed films.)
In recognition of Ishiguro’s collective body of work, he was chosen as the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017 — just a year after one of his heroes, Bob Dylan, was tapped for the same honor — making him only its 29th recipient for work in the English language. His Nobel citation declared that he, “in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” The New York Times has called him “a blue-chip literary stock,” “one of the most acclaimed and influential British writers of his generation” and “a writer who takes enormous gambles, then uses his superior gifts to manage the risk as tightly as possible,” while heralding “his pared-down, Pinteresque prose, his masterful narrative control [and] his virtuosic use of understatement and elision.” And the Los Angeles Times has described him as “that rarest of creatures — a literary craftsman who also sells books,” while asserting that “few writers who’ve ever lived have been able to create moods of transience, loss and existential self-doubt as Ishiguro has.”
A contemporary of Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie who is the favorite working writer of many of his peers, including Haruki Murakami, Ishiguro was also the recipient of the Order of the British Empire in 1990, the French Order of Arts and Letters in 1998, the Library Lion Medal from the New York Public Library in 2014 and a British knighthood for services to literature in 2018.
Over the course of this episode, the 68-year-old reflects on his journeys from Japan to England and from songwriting to fiction writing; what inspired his best known novels, and why he thinks he has often written characters who deceive themselves and repress their emotions, from the butler Stevens in The Remains of the Day through bureaucrat Williams in Living; why he was so impacted by Ikiru as a boy and so excited to adapt it as a man and why he now says he’s “as proud of this as anything I’ve ever done”; plus much more.
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