Kazuo Ishiguro: 'I was quite ready for something that would be quite difficult for me to write'
Bathetic self-deception, and unfulfilled dreams have been the defining themes of almost all Kazuo Ishiguro’s work. Decca Aitkenhead meets the author.
Monday 27 April 2009
azuo Ishiguro's new book features an American woman who claims to be a virtuoso on the cello. She befriends a young Hungarian cellist earning his living playing in cafes, and every day she tutors him, earnestly and intensely. "You have it," she tells him. "Most definitely. You have ... potential." As the days turn into weeks, he wonders why she does not appear to own a cello herself, and eventually, as summer draws to a close, he discovers why. She cannot actually play the instrument at all. So convinced was she of her own musical genius, no teacher ever seemed equal to it, and so rather than tarnish her gift with imperfection, she chose never to realise it at all. "At least I haven't damaged what I was born with," she says.
His potential was certainly identified at a young age; in 1983, he was named as one of Britain's best young novelists, alongside Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan, his second novel won the Whitbread prize and his third, The Remains of the Day, won the Booker. But his early promise has been more than fulfilled; at 54, he remains a literary phenomenon - his last novel, Never Let Me Go, is currently being made into a film starring Keira Knightley - and in person he conveys the self-contained confidence of a writer who knows his new work, Nocturnes, will be another major publishing event.
After six novels, Nocturnes is Ishiguro's first collection of short stories. Although linked by the pathos of their nostalgic aesthetic, they read as five discrete short stories, but he seems uncomfortable about describing them as such, referring to Nocturnes instead as a "story book".