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Reading List: Kazuo Ishiguro Amidst Fogginess and Obscurity

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2017 was awarded to the English author Kazuo Ishiguro who, as the Nobel committee stated,  "in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”.

In his words, as a writer,  "I'm interested in memory because it's a filter through which we see our lives, and because it's foggy and obscure, the opportunities for self-deception are there. In the end, as a writer, I'm more interested in what people tell themselves happened rather than what actually happened."

Here is a reading list of his works. 


A Pale View of Hills

In this debut novel from acclaimed Booker Prize-winning Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go), post-war Japan serves as the haunting backdrop to a subtle story of memory, suicide, and psychological trauma. Etsuko lives alone in rural England, trying to come to terms with the recent suicide of her daughter, Keiko. A visit from her other daughter Niki sends Etsuko retreating into the depths of her memory. She finds herself reliving one particular hot summer in Nagasaki, when she and her friends struggled to rebuild their lives after the horrors of the bomb and World War Two. But when her thoughts turn to her strange friendship with Sachiko and Sachiko's daughter Mariko, the memories begin to take on a disturbing cast. As Etsuko examines her relationship with her daughters and struggles to cope with her guilt, the lines between the past and the present - between Etsuko's own daughter and Mariko, between reality and recollection - start to blur. Winner of the Winifred Holtby Prize in 1982, A Pale View of the Hills is still haunting readers decades later. 

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The Remains of the Day

'After all what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished?' In the summer of 1956, Stevens, the ageing butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on a leisurely holiday that will take him deep into the English countryside and into his past...A contemporary classic, The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro's beautiful and haunting evocation of life between the wars in a Great English House, of lost causes and lost love. 

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Never Let Me Go

In one of the most memorable novels of recent years, Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewered version of contemporary England. Narrated by Kathy, now 31, Never Let Me Go hauntingly dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School, and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world. A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.

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An Artist of the Floating World

It is 1948. Japan is rebuilding her cities after the calamity of World War Two, her people putting defeat behind them and looking to the future. The celebrated artist, Masuji Ono, fills his days attending to his garden, his house repairs, his two grown daughters and his grandson; his evenings drinking with old associates in quiet lantern-lit bars. His should be a tranquil retirement. But as his memories continually return to the past - to a life and career deeply touched by the rise of Japanese militarism - a dark shadow begins to grow over his serenity.

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Unconsoled, The

Ryder, a renowned pianist, arrives in a Central European city he cannot identify for a concert he cannot remember agreeing to give. But then as he traverses a landscape by turns eerie and comical - and always strangely malleable, as a dream might be - he comes steadily to realise he is facing the most crucial performance of his life. This is Ishiguro's extraordinary study of a man whose life has accelerated beyond his control was met on publication by consternation, vilification - and the highest praise.

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When We Were Orphans

England, 1930s. Christopher Banks has become the country's most celebrated detective, his cases the talk of London society. Yet one unsolved crime has always haunted him; the mysterious disappearance of his parents, in Old Shanghai, when he was a small boy. Now, as the world lurches towards total war, Banks realises the time has come for him to return to the city of his childhood and at last solve the mystery - that only by his doing so will civilisation be saved from the approaching catastrophe. Moving between London and Shanghai of the inter-war years, When We Were Orphans is a story of memory, intrigue and the need to return; of a childhood vision of the world surviving deep into adulthood, indelibly shaping and distorting a person's life. 

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The Buried Giant

The Romans have long since departed, and Britain is steadily declining into ruin. But at least the wars that once ravaged the country have ceased. The Buried Giant begins as a couple, Axl and Beatrice, set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for years. They expect to face many hazards - some strange and other-worldly - but they cannot yet foresee how their journey will reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for one another. Sometimes savage, often intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro's first novel in a decade is about lost memories, love, revenge and war.

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Nocturnes

'It was our third time playing the Godfather theme since lunch...' In a short story collection, Kazuo Ishiguro explores ideas of love, music and the passing of time. From the piazzas of Italy to the Malvern Hills, a London flat to the 'hush-hush floor' of an exclusive Hollywood hotel, the characters we encounter range from young dreamers to cafe musicians to faded stars, all of them at some moment of reckoning. Gentle, intimate and witty, this quintet is marked by a haunting theme: the struggle to keep alive a sense of life's romance, even as one gets older, relationships flounder and youthful hopes recede. 

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