Kazuo Ishiguro 1954?–
Japanese novelist and short story writer.
Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki and grew up in England. His debut novel, A Pale View of Hills (1982), has drawn favorable response from critics who describe his writing as subtle, graceful, and full of promise.
A Pale View of Hills focuses on the private despair of Etsuko, a young woman who survived the bombing of Nagasaki and moved to England after the war. In a broader sense, the bombing symbolizes the loss of a culture and the alienation of a people trying to cope with the modern world.
[A Pale View of Hills depicts the] present-day troubles and dark memories of Etsuko, a Nagasaki woman now living alone in England—in a strongly moody but ineffectually structured first novel. Etsuko is now alone, divorced; one daughter, Keiko, has committed suicide; the other, Niki, English-born, lives unmarried with a man in London. And these very un-Japanese social circumstances direct Etsuko's musings back to the time in Nagasaki, a year or so after the Bomb, when things started to unravel…. [Even] more disturbing [is the] anarchic story of Etsuko's friend Sachiko—who accepted the lies and evasions of an American boyfriend, even though this led to the horrendous maltreatment of her little girl, Mariko. (Mariko, emotionally battered by neglect, wandered the canals at night, unmissed, a walking symbol of victimized Nagasaki.) Throughout the novel there's a distant overtone of destruction hovering—pieces of lives that can never be rejoined. But Ishiguro, who writes in English, pulls things seriously out of kilter with … bad weighting of flashback/flashforward technique: the doses of memory are numbing, hard to swim free from when the book attempts to pitch ahead into the present. And the result is evocative but oppressively unfocused fiction.
A review of "A Pale View of Hills," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1982 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. L, No. 4, February 15, 1982, p. 224.
One of Kazuo Ishiguro's themes … is the conflict between the traditional and the modern worlds. [In A Pale View of Hills] it is set against the background of the bombing of Nagasaki…. I first came across Mr Ishiguro's work in Faber's Introduction 7, where his story 'A Strange and Sometimes Sadness' impressed me as the work of a delicate and imaginative mind. A Pale View of Hills certainly fulfils the promise. The narrator is a middle-aged Japanese woman who, having lived through the bombing, is now resident in England. Her narrative switches in time between the present and the period just after the war, when the dust raised by the bomb is still very much in the air, and when she was in the role of a subservient wife. In the eyes of everyone, and in all senses, she appears to have survived. Nothing is necessarily as it seems, however; the terrible events prove to have had more than just a physically destructive effect, and Mr Ishiguro's double-barrelled narrative device enables him to show the past determining the present. In Etsuko's present life as much as in her past, she is encircled by a chain of death which has its beginning in the war. The Japanese sections centre around some mysterious killings and Etsuko's uneasy relationship with her friend's daughter; things begin to look sinister when, in the present, she starts dreaming about a little girl 'swinging'. What is most impressive about this novel is the way in which the author manages to blend the historical and psychological dimensions, so that his protagonist is a creation of her times. It is all done with subtlety, but if there is a fault it is that the incidental detail is not sufficiently filled in. Some characters are rather faceless, and the dialogue is vapid in places. Perhaps after this fine first novel, Kazuo Ishiguro will risk a little more in the realm of style.
James Campbell, "Kitchen Window," in New Statesman (© 1982 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), Vol. 103, No. 2657, February 19, 1982, p. 25.∗
Kazuo Ishiguro has written a...
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