Kazuo Ishiguro was incredulous when reporters called him up for a reaction to the big news of the day. The English novelist said he was not sure if the news of his selection for the Nobel Prize was a hoax.
"It's a magnificent honor, mainly because it means that I'm in the footsteps of the greatest authors that have lived, so that's a terrific commendation," he told BBC.
Ishiguro better come to terms with reality. He is in the league of extraordinary writers. The Japan-born British writer known for his emotionally charged novels has been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.
The Swedish Academy, which awarded the coveted prize to singer-songwriter Bob Dylan last year, has caught observers off guard yet again. Writers like Margret Atwood, Milan Kundera and Haruki Murakami were the favorites in the run-up to the Nobel Prize announcement but the academy chose the author of 'The Remains of the Day'.
The 62-year-old novelist has eight works in his oeuvre. He has been translated into more than 40 languages. 'The Remains of the Day' and 'Never Let Me Go' have been made into wonderful movies. 'An Artist of the Floating World' and 'When We Were Orphans' cemented Ishiguro's position as an acclaimed writer.
Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki in 1954. When he was five years old, he moved to England with his father who received an offer as an oceanographer in Surrey.
Ishiguro went to the Kent University to read literature and philosophy. He pursued higher studies in creative writing in the East Anglia University. He was in glorious company with masters such as Malcolm Bradbury around him.
His dissertation became his stepping stone to the world of literature. His debut novel, 'A Pale View of Hills', had its genesis in his academic dissertation. That was in 1982. Seven years later, he was awarded the Man Booker Prize for 'The Remains of the Day'.
Fellow Booker winner Salman Rushdie was one of the first to congratulate Ishiguro on Thursday. “Many congratulations to my old friend Ish, whose work I’ve loved and admired ever since I first read A Pale View of Hills,” Rushdie said. “And he plays the guitar and writes songs too! Roll over Bob Dylan.”
Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of The Swedish Academy, summed up Ishiguro in a unique way. “If you mix Jane Austen and Franz Kafka then you have Kazuo Ishiguro in a nutshell, but you have to add a little bit of Marcel Proust into the mix.” Her favorite is ‘The Buried Giant’, published in 2015.
Novels from Ishiguro’s latter period are more into fantasy than reality. ‘The Buried Giant’ tells the story of an elderly couple who traverse a strange land that could be England, where memory and oblivion coexist, past and present intertwine, and reality merges with fantasy.
Ishiguro, who has also written an anthology of stories, has said that he liked to write through memories. Ishiguro may be a surprise choice for the Nobel Prize but his selection rightfully turns the spotlight on a universe of emotional memories.