Kazuo Ishiguro Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Kazuo Ishiguro (ihsh-ih-gew-roh), a renowned British novelist, is the son of Shizuo and Shizuko (née Michida) Ishiguro. On May 9, 1986, he married Lorna Anne MacDougall. Their daughter, Naomi, was born in 1992.

A key event in Ishiguro’s life was accompanying his parents in 1960 to England, where his father was employed by the British government as an oceanographer. Although the family had left Japan expecting to return in a year or two, they remained in England, and Ishiguro did not return to Japan until 1989, when he was thirty-five. He graduated from the University of Kent in 1978 with an honors degree in English and philosophy and then completed an M.A. in creative writing at the University of East Anglia.

Ishiguro’s distinguished reputation as a major novelist rests on a reasonably small literary output—five novels in two decades. The novels continue to garner prizes and recognitions: his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, received the Winifred Holtby Award of the Royal Society of Literature; An Artist of the Floating World received the Whitbread Book of the Year Award for 1986; The Remains of the Day was awarded the Booker Prize for 1989, and When We Were Orphans was short-listed for the Booker in 2000.

Ishiguro’s novels are heavily invested in the past. Typically, they involve first-person narrators attempting to establish the past, despite the unreliability of memory in confronting past errors and sins of omission. A Pale View of Hills and An Artist of the Floating World are major accomplishments in their representation of a culture for which Ishiguro’s parents were his only resources. The first novel focuses on a Japanese mother, Etsuko, living in England, telling a story in which she explores her memory for the causes of her daughter’s suicide. The second novel, An Artist of the Floating World, is set in postwar Japan. Its narrator, Masuji Ono, is a painter confronting his complicity in the imperialist regime he represented as an official artist.

Although both novels were well received, it was The Remains of the Day, Ishiguro’s third novel, that launched him into international fame, later enhanced by the 1993 film adaptation starring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. Concerned that he was being pigeonholed as the author of “Japanese novels,” Ishiguro had made a radical break with his earlier literary production to write The Remains of the Day, a novel he described...

(The entire section is 1029 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Kazuo Ishiguro was born on November 8, 1954, in the Japanese city of Nagasaki, the son of Shizuo Ishiguro, an oceanographer, and Shizuko (née Michida) Ishiguro. In 1960, the family moved to Guildford, near London, and their intended temporary stay became a permanent one. Immersed in British culture, and sent to what he has described as a typical British school, Kazuo Ishiguro formed his vision of Japan by means of childhood memories, Japanese films of the 1950’s, and the Japanese books that arrived every month at home, where the family conversed in Japanese.

After a short stint as a grouse beater for the British Queen Mother at Balmoral Castle in 1973 and employment as a social worker both before and after he earned his B.A. (with honors) in English and philosophy from the University of Kent in 1978, Ishiguro enrolled in the creative writing program at the University of East Anglia, where he earned an M.A. in 1980. Having started to write before he entered the graduate program, Ishiguro garnered immediate acclaim with his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, in 1982, yet he continued to work part time in a hostel for London’s homeless until the rewards he received for An Artist of the Floating World allowed him to focus exclusively on his fiction and film scripts.

While working on his third novel in 1986, Kazuo Ishiguro married Lorna Anne MacDougall, a fellow social worker; when The Remains of the Day was published in 1989, the couple was living in an unpretentious corner of London. Their daughter Naomi was born in 1991. In 1993, a film adaptation of The Remains of the Day, directed by James Ivory and starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, solidified Ishiguro’s fame as a creator of exceptional, haunted characters. The film received eight Academy Award nominations.

As a writer, Ishiguro has rejected claims that his first two novels offer a realistic picture of his home country, which he had not seen between 1960 and 1989. Instead, he has insisted that it is a character’s memory of a conflict in life that held his artistic interest.