Why Kazuo Ishiguro Gives Me Hope

buriedgiantThe British writer Kazoo Ishiguro has now released a fantasy novel called The Buried Giant. It was actually the first novel he attempted many years ago but later set aside. He said he had trouble forming it fully. Now, as a seasoned writer, he returned to the eerie story and fulfilled the vision that he’d probably originally had. It’s an interesting work, dealing with memory and spells and wounds from the past. In reading it, I haven’t marveled at the story Ishiguro decided to write (which is compelling from the first few pages) but rather how this particular writer has traveled artistically from Remains of the Day to When We Were Orphans to Never Let Me Go and finally to this. It’s impressive to say the least.

Remains of the Day is a meditative narrative on one humble yet proud butler’s life, a tour de force of voice and character. It’s a psychological study that reveals one beautiful piece of personal history at a time, which quietly lays out how Stevens has come to be who he is. It’s a heartbreaking, highly literary story.

When We Were Orphans is essentially a detective story about a British man named Christopher Banks seeking out his biological parents in China. It’s not particularly suspenseful but I had a difficult time putting it down, drawn by Ishiguro’s voice and the question of whether Banks will ever find his parents.

Never Let Me Go is a science fiction (for lack of a better term) story in a real world-like setting. Constructed in simple sentences with direct dialogue and guileless characters, the book deceives us into thinking at first we’re just visiting a regular boarding school. Of course, we soon realize something’s off about the place and kids. As we attach to the characters, we realize we’re inside a horrific, dystopian society. How casually and non-judgmentally he treats the issue of (spoiler alert) cloning and harvesting organs is effectively chilling.

Ishiguro writes drastically different stories from book to book, changing the narrative voice according to what the story dictates while maintaining his keen insights and vivid details. I like that. It tells me that though I’ve written a literary thriller, a sci-fi story, drafted a women’s fiction novel, and outlined a memoir about adoption, it doesn’t mean I lack direction. It means I’m versatile. Ishiguro is willing to take in various aspects of the world and articulate them artistically. He stretches. He surprises. He’s unafraid to change. In an age when writers pump out similar novels again and again for money, Ishiguro reminds us of the breadth of the human imagination and deep abilities of a creator. He isn’t nailed down by genre or conventional labels. He simply writes what fascinates him and hence, we are fascinated.

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