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Ijiwaru Sensei

Kazuo Ishiguro

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Do any of Kazuo Ishiguro's works deal directly or indirectly with Japanese culture?

How much influence of Ishiguro's Japanese heritage is displayed in his writings?

Any comments would be appreciated.

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I've read only Never Let Me Go.

I'm not sure what you're looking for, but if it's great literature, then this is the book. It deals with humanity, so indirectly, it touches on Japanese culture. Very indirectly. But it's one of the best novels I've ever read, maybe because it's about a timely issue -- one that will inevitably be discussed in years to come. I think this book may be a touchstone on that issue, something read and re-read in light of future developments.

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I've read only Never Let Me Go.

I'm not sure what you're looking for, but if it's great literature, then this is the book. It deals with humanity, so indirectly, it touches on Japanese culture. Very indirectly. But it's one of the best novels I've ever read, maybe because it's about a timely issue -- one that will inevitably be discussed in years to come. I think this book may be a touchstone on that issue, something read and re-read in light of future developments.

I was asked to read over an essay about Ishiguro because of my (limited) familiarity with Japanese writers; however, I'm having difficulty finding connections between the essay and what I know about Japanese culture.

I guess what I am trying to determine is how heavily influenced Ishiguro is by his Japanese heritage. I know he was born in Japan, but he moved with his family to England when he was only 5. How strong are the cultural ties, and do those ties influence his writing? I haven't read Ishiguro, but I've considered him, maybe unfairly, more a British author than Japanese--at least culturally.

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But it's one of the best novels I've ever read, maybe because it's about a timely issue -- one that will inevitably be discussed in years to come. I think this book may be a touchstone on that issue, something read and re-read in light of future developments.

I've always thought of this book as being about an issue,

cloning, and the humanity/feelings/considerations of created beings -- what our obligations to them will be, and how we are to think of them.

I read the novel around the time that human DNA had been mapped, Dolly the sheep had been cloned, and human clones seemed like they'd be here soon. And maybe they will be.

But the movie is being sold, from what I can tell, as a story about us, and about how

the fate of the clones in the story should make us reflect on the frailty of our lives.

Or something like that.

Maybe that's just the perception of certain early viewers of the film, and maybe they're off-base. I hope so. The question the book raises is,

Do clones have souls? and how that might be determined

. I'm hoping the movie retains that focus, but I'm worried.

Does anyone else have a different take on the novel?

BTW, I'm adding "spoiler" tags to this post, but the movie's advertising gives away every plot development, so I'm not sure why I bother.

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I see the original question was asked four years ago, but in case the poster is still interested -- A Pale View of Hills and An Artist of the Floating World are about Japanese characters and their culture.

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NYTimes review of The Buried Giant, Ishiguro's newest novel.

 

Fantasy and historical fiction and myth here run together with the Matter of Britain, in a novel that’s easy to admire, to respect and to enjoy, but difficult to love. Still, “The Buried Giant” does what important books do: It remains in the mind long after it has been read, refusing to leave, forcing one to turn it over and over. On a second reading, and on a third, its characters and events and motives are easier to understand, but even so, it guards its secrets and its world close.

 

The reviewer is Neil Gaiman, btw.

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Ursula K. LeGuin is not a fan of The Buried Giant.

 

 

But so generic a landscape and such vague, elusive perceptions must be brought to life by the language of the telling. The whole thing is made out of words, after all. The imaginary must be imagined, accurately and with scrupulous consistency. A fantastic setting requires vivid and specific description; while characters may lose touch with their reality, the storyteller can’t. A toneless, inexact language is incapable of creating landscape, meaningful relationship, or credible event.

...

I respect what I think he was trying to do, but for me it didn’t work. It couldn’t work. No writer can successfully use the ‘surface elements’ of a literary genre — far less its profound capacities — for a serious purpose, while despising it to the point of fearing identification with it. I found reading the book painful. It was like watching a man falling from a high wire while he shouts to the audience, “Are they going say I’m a tight-rope walker?”

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Deadline: Scott Rudin Nabs Hot New Book ‘The Buried Giant’ By Kazuo Ishiguro.

 

Scott Rudin has acquired rights to Kazuo Ishiguro’s epic new novel The Buried Giant. The book, which has been ecstatically reviewed, follows a couple in a semi-historical Medieval Britain as they venture forth across a war-ravaged landscape in search of a son they haven’t seen in years. The story has fantasy elements, including a dragon, spectacular battle sequences and a panoramic backdrop. It has been compared favorably to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings.

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James Wood: The Uses of Oblivion.

 

Unfortunately, Ishiguro’s new novel, “The Buried Giant” (Knopf), does not generate the kind of pressure that might wring shadows from the bemusing transparency of its narration. Thematically, it has obvious connections with the author’s earlier analyses of historical repression, and with the blasted theology of “Never Let Me Go.” It also has some consonance with the Kafkaesque dreamscape of “The Unconsoled” (a novel that has had able defenders since its publication, in 1995, but that has visited its own kind of amnesiac curse on me, since I can remember almost nothing distinct in its more than five hundred pages). But in his new novel Ishiguro runs the great risk of making literal and general what is implicit and personal in his best fiction. He has written not a novel about historical amnesia but an allegory of historical amnesia, set in a sixth- or seventh-century Britain, amok with dragons, ogres, and Arthurian knights. The problem is not fantasy but allegory, which exists to literalize and simplify. The giant is not buried deeply enough.

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I had read that review earlier today (I'm home sick). Wood is such a great writer; I spent part of last year following up on writers covered in his collection, The Fun Stuff.

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Looks like my link to Scott Esposito's review of The Buried Giant was a victim of the move, so here it is again:

 

 The book takes place in Britain in the early middle ages, and Ishiguro has been faulted for not providing verisimilitude as one might expect from a work of historical/political fiction written by an author like Norman Rush. I will not deny that Ishiguro’s book is very much a fantasia (Oates references John Barth), and perhaps he is being judged by books like The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, where the voice was highly mannered and textured in a very satisfying way, but I don’t see that this critique holds any importance for this book. I see no evidence that The Buried Giant in any way sets out to offer a true-to-life account of Britain in the early Middle Ages, and I imagine that Ishiguro (and perhaps many other readers) would see such a complaint as beside the point. The narrative voice, such as it is, is consistent throughout; it is more in the vein of fairy tale than historical novel, but this suits Ishiguro’s aims for the book (which is more about the social and the archetypal than the personal), and I found it satisfying. He is working in a much more mythic register than in other books, but this suits his aims and his themes, and I don’t see why his past successes should in any way insult his current project.

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The Buried Giant would have been much better as a novella. The central story--Axl and Beatrice's journey to see their son--is effective, although longer than it needed to be, and the "danger of memory" theme was fine. But a lot of the story gets bogged down in subplots about knights--Wistan and Gawain--that just aren't very interesting. I felt like Ishiguro was using the structure of fantasy stories without really engaging them or adding anything new to what they are or how they're told.

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