Five Fascinating Facts about Kazuo Ishiguro

A short biography of novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, author of Never Let Me Go, told through five facts

1. Kazuo Ishiguro was born on the same day as several other writers. 8 November 1954 seems, in fact, to have been a remarkably popular day for authors to arrive in the world: author of showbiz biographies David Bret and American journalist and author Timothy Egan were also born on the same day. Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki in Japan – one of the two cities that had been blasted by the atomic bomb just nine years earlier – but in 1960 he moved with his parents to England.

2. His success as a writer owes a fair bit to his training – which he undertook on the first British university course in Creative Writing. Ishiguro is one of several famous success stories to come out of the MA Kazuo Ishiguroin Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK – he studied at the university under Malcolm Bradbury, who co-founded the course there with Angus Wilson in 1970.

3. Kazuo Ishiguro has also written lyrics for jazz songs. In 2002, Ishiguro appeared on the BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs and chose his eight favourite songs. One of them was jazz singer Stacey Kent’s recording of the song ‘They Can’t Take That Away from Me’. Ishiguro and Kent subsequently met and formed a creative partnership, with Ishiguro writing the lyrics for a number of Kent’s songs.

4. He worked for a time as a social worker. Ishiguro met his future wife, also a social worker, while he was working as a residential resettlement worker. Ishiguro’s experience of social care undoubtedly played a part in the writing of Never Let Me Go (2005), his dystopian novel about clones of children who are raised at a special boarding school for the sole purpose of having their organs harvested.

5. Never Let Me Go almost won the Booker Prize – but narrowly lost out to John Banville’s The Sea. Ishiguro’s novel was in the running for the prize, but Irish writer John Banville just pipped Ishiguro to the prestigious award. In many ways, it was a nice reversal of fortune: in 1989, Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day had beaten Banville’s The Book of Evidence. John Sutherland, the chair of that year’s Booker judging panel, has written about the ‘shit-storm’ that followed his decision to give Banville the casting vote – Ishiguro seemed the favourite of the two.

Image: Kazuo Ishiguro in 2005 by Mariusz Kubik, via Wikimedia Commons.

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