‘In the past, I used to think it was nicer to be as honest and open as possible, but I’ve seen the damage that this does’

Counting down to our encounter with Dr Dominic Dean and Dr Richard Rankin Russell to discuss Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun next Wednesday, here’s another classic interview from the archives. Taken from The Paris Review in 2008, Ishiguro illuminates his early life and influences including Bob Dylan, Sherlock Holmes, Plato and Dostoyevsky, and traces the course of his career until Never Let Me Go—although we get a tantalizing glimpse of the work in progress that would become The Buried Giant.

‘This was a time when I was starting to think about what my career was going to be. I’d failed to make it as a musician. I’d had lots of appointments with A&R people. After two seconds, they’d say, It’s not going to happen, man. So I thought I’d have a go at a radio play. 

‘Then, almost by accident, I came across a little advertisement for a creative-writing M.A. taught by Malcolm Bradbury at the University of East Anglia. Today it’s a famous course, but in those days it was a laughable idea, alarmingly American. I discovered subsequently that it hadn’t run the previous year because not enough people had applied. Somebody told me Ian McEwan had done it a decade before. I thought he was the most exciting young writer around at that point. But the primary attraction was that I could go back to university for a year, fully funded by the government, and at the end I would only have to submit a thirty-page work of fiction. I sent the radio play to Malcolm Bradbury along with my application. 

‘I was slightly taken aback when I was accepted, because it suddenly became real. I thought, these writers are going to scrutinize my work and it’s going to be humiliating. Somebody told me about a cottage for rent in the middle of nowhere in Cornwall that had previously been used as a rehabilitation place for drug addicts. I called up and said, I need a place for one month because I’ve got to teach myself to write. And that’s what I did that summer of 1979. It was the first time I really thought about the structure of a short story. I spent ages figuring out things like viewpoint, how you tell the story, and so on. At the end I had two stories to show, so I felt more secure.’

Read more: https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/5829/the-art-of-fiction-no-196-kazuo-ishiguro

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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