Ishiguro, Kazuo

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For this year’s A to Z Blog challenge, I thought I’d draw back the curtain and explore the life and times of a bibliophile.  Care to join me?

Kazuo Ishiguro is one of the authors that influenced my reading career as an adult.  I first came to know of him after having seen the film Remains of the Day, the 1993 film with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.  Based on a novel?  Well then, the novel must be read.

I was pleasantly surprised.  No, the film cannot measure up to the book, but it does capture the emotional truth of the novel in a way I did not expect.  The story of a very proper butler and his almost-relationship-that-never-was with the housekeeper is exquisitely told, oh so properly.  It’s almost painful to read a story with that much emotional repression and yet it’s just that brilliant.  Unrequited love, love never dared to be spoken aloud, loyalty, dignity, even worthiness.  There is a nobility in Mr. Stevens that Ishiguro manages to elevate to socially awkward levels.

It was the trailer for another film adapted from a Kazuo Ishiguro book that sent me back to the bookshelves in 2010 to find Never Let Me Go.  I never saw the film, starring Keira Knightley, and probably won’t.  Never Let Me Go is a rather complicated story set in a future time when clones exist only as living organ donors.  Their life spans are notoriously short, marked by the number of harvests they have survived.

The question of whether or not these clones are truly human hinges on their ability to create art.  They question their origins, whether they were cloned from specific people or if their source DNA came from society’s rejects?  What does it mean to be human?  What are the ethics around human cloning?  What would society owe to cloned humans?  It was a difficult book to categorize in 2005, when it was written, but it raised a lot of ethical questions that I think still have to be addressed.

The book itself, for all its complexity is beautifully written, with a kind of innocence that seems to enhance the disturbing nature of the questions it asks.

Ishiguro has an exquisite touch with language and imagery, marrying both in a way that serves the story well, whatever it may be.  As a reader, I love how he makes the ordinary shine in a way that makes it extraordinary.  As a writer, he challenges me not only to find the right word, but to find the right tone, and the right emotion for whatever story I set out to tell.

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