Congratulations, Kazuo Ishiguro

My favourite day

Today is one of my favourite days of the year: when the Nobel Laureate in Literature is announced by the Swedish Academy. Last year, I was extremely disappointed with their choice of Bob Dylan. For me, he was not really worthy of being bestowed with the honour of being a Nobel laureate and his indifference regarding acknowledging the honour and coming to Stockholm to accept it seemed to verify that even he didn’t think he should have received it.

“… a writer of great integrity.”

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Kazuo Ishiguro (Source: Paris Review)

This year is a different story. Kazuo Ishiguro, the author of The Buried Giant, The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go (just to name a few) is the 2017 Nobel Laureate in Literature.

Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, described Ishiguro as a writer of great integrity and said of his writing style that it was a mix of Jane Austen and Franz Kafka, with a touch of Marcel Proust stirred in. I think that sums it up perfectly. His writing is elegant, sometimes deceptively uncomplicated, and full of resonance.

I first stumbled upon Kazuo Ishiguro’s work during my last year of grad school. I needed something to distract me while I was finishing my MFA thesis. I borrowed a copy of The Remains of the Day from the library and fell in love with Ishiguro’s beautiful sense of language and storytelling. I promised myself I would read more of his work, but that didn’t happen again until many years later, when I picked up a copy of Never Let Me Go while on my way to the US. I read the entire novel while in transit, then began re-reading it once I’d arrived in Philadelphia just for the sheer pleasure of re-immersing myself in the world he’d created.

Today, to celebrate the announcement, I treated myself to a Kindle copy of Nocturnes, Ishiguro’s short story collection published in 2009. I’m looking forward to being captivated by his way with words and rich character depiction.

If you haven’t read any of Kazuo Ishiguro’s work, check out this list of his titles and see if anything strikes your fancy:

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 20.35.34A Pale View of Hills

An Artist of the Floating World

The Remains of the Day

The Unconsoled

When We Were Orphans

Never Let Me Go

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

The Buried Giant

A belated post about Mo Yan…


2012 Nobel Laureate in Literature, Mo Yan

Last Thursday, we book nerds waited–ripe with anticipation–for the announcement of the 2012 Nobel Laureate in Literature. Everyone had their own ideas of who was worthy. Even people who don’t usually give a fig about books wanted to have their say. On the subway I overheard several Swedes griping how unfair it was that Astrid Lindgren or Bob Dylan never received the prize. On TV, talking heads blathered on about how this was the year Joyce Carol Oates would receive it. Haruki Murakami‘s name came up several times. Heck, even I was convinced that Murakami was a shoe-in. I figured the Svenska Akademien would never give the prize to my personal favorite (Milan Kundera). I think Horace Engdahl and company have blacklisted him (and Joyce Carol Oates for that matter).

No one mentioned Mo Yan.

So when the announcement was made, I readily admit I was one of those people who said, “Mo who?” I Googled him. I looked him up on Wikipedia to get an idea of just who he was and what he’d written. I can safely say that I have never read any of his books but I’ve seen a movie based on one of them (Red Sorghum, which also marked the film debut of my favorite Chinese actresses, Gong Li).

Something I find interesting with Mo Yan’s receiving the prize is that so many people feel embarrassed about not knowing who he is or what he’s written. Somehow, they don’t seem to grasp the idea that one of the reasons the Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded to a writer is to bring attention to work that may have gone unnoticed. And really, there are so many writers and books out there that no one can claim to have read every single work ever written. That’s one of the joys of books–for every tome you read, there are even more just waiting for you to discover them.

So my plan is explore Mo Yan’s literary works. I’ve decided to order three of his books and spend part of this chilly autumn and winter reading them. The three titles I’ll be reading are The Republic of Wine, Big Breasts and Wide Hips and Shifu: You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh. I hope the English Bookshop in Gamla Stan will be able to help me with my order.

And so a personal message to Mo Yan: my heartfelt congratulations to you on being awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature. I have never read your work but I plan to make up for it.

What will you be reading this autumn, and who did you think was going to receive this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature?