Portrait of Kazuo Ishiguro

“This isn’t some kind of weird fantasy,” he says. “We just haven’t woken up to what is already possible today.”

Next Wednesday 29 June 2022 we’ll be joined by Dr Dominic Dean and Dr Richard Rankin Russell to explore Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Released to great fanfare just last year, Klara and the Sun was Ishiguro’s first book since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017. In this interview for The Guardian, the author discusses his work and life as well as the themes and ideas behind Klara.

‘Each novel takes him around five years: a long build-up of research and thinking, followed by a speedy first draft, a process he compares to a samurai sword fight: “You stare at each other silently for ages, usually with tall grass blowing away and moody sky. You are thinking all the time, and then in a split second it happens. The swords are drawn: Wham! Wham! Wham! And one of them falls,” he explains, wielding an imaginary sword at the screen. “You had to get your mind absolutely right and then when you drew that sword you just did it: Wham! It had to be the perfect cut.” As a child, he was mystified by swashbuckling Errol Flynn films when he first came to the UK, in which the sword fights consisted of actors going “ching, ching, ching, ching, for about 20 minutes while talking to each other,” he says. “Perhaps there’s a way of writing fiction like that, where you work it out in the act, but I tend towards the ‘Don’t do anything, it’s all internal’ approach.”

‘Ishiguro’s mother was also a gifted storyteller, telling stories from the war (she was injured by a roof tile in the Nagasaki bombing) and acting out scenes from Shakespeare at the dinner table. He holds up a battered copy of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, a present from his mother when he was around 16. “Because I was a would-be hippie, she said something like: ‘You should read it – you will feel like you are going out of your mind.’ So I did read it, and was completely riveted from the start.” Dostoevksy has remained one of his greatest influences. His mother introduced him to many of the classics: “She was very important in persuading a boy who wasn’t interested in reading and wanted to listen to albums all the time that there might be something in some of these books.”’

Read the full interview here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/feb/20/kazuo-ishiguro-klara-and-the-sun-interview

Helpfully the article includes a link to an extract from Klara and the Sun and to another piece in which notable authors, including Margaret Atwood and Sarah Perry talk about their favourite Ishiguro and dissect the lingering power of his books. In the extract quoted here, Madeleine Thien makes the case for the cruelly underrated When We Were Orphans.

‘At the time, I did not think the novel worked; many critics – and even Ishiguro himself – agreed with my very young self. But we were wrong. When We Were Orphans is like a house with all its windows blown out, furniture in disarray, walls twisted and collapsed – though both narrator and reader do not reel from this fact, and insist on moving about as if the world is in perfect order.

‘For 21 years this novel has gnawed away at me. I’ve read a thousand other things in the meantime, but When We Were Orphans occupies my thoughts, still bothering me with its questions: What if my clarity of thought has never touched reality? What if the fantasies of our childhoods, mixed in with childhood’s grief, are the obscuring coil around our adult lives? Have I completely misunderstood my own actions? What if we – and our governments – are only playing at knowing?

‘Through Banks’s companionable voice – his naiveté and courtesy, which constitute the very enclosures but also the integrity of his mind – When We Were Orphans unleashes a riveting and shockingly disorienting narrative of the appearance of power versus power itself. Its memoir-like garment flutters against the brutal reality of a city quartered into settlements of colonialism, nationalism, civil war and approaching totalitarianism. Reality is both mutilated and invented by the creation of multiple unrealities – and the horrific consequences are borne by people unseen and unregistered, not only by our protagonist but, chillingly, by us.’

Read full the full article here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/feb/20/my-favourite-kazuo-ishiguro-margaret-atwood-ian-rankin-sarah-perry

We’ll be discussing Klara and the Sun with our guests Dr Dominic Dean from the University of Sussex and Dr Richard Rankin Russell from Baylor University, Texas on Wednesday 29 June 2022. The event is free and open to all via Zoom.

Book your place via Eventbrite at the link below: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cardiff-booktalk-klara-and-the-sun-registration-314430910317?aff=ebdsoporgprofile

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