Kazuo Ishiguro is Britain’s best Japanese novelist, possibly Britain’s only Japanese novelist. His second novel An Artist of the Floating World has been heaped with praise. It was on the Booker shortlist and has won the Novel category in the Whitbread Literary Awards; it is deservedly favourite to become Whitbread Book of the Year when the judges meet on January 13th.
Born in Nagasaki in 1954, Kazuo Ishiguro came to Britain with his parents in 1960. His father is a scientist, an oceanographer. When in 1983 Ishiguro was chosen as one of the twenty Best of Young British Novelists he was still in fact Japanese. He now holds a British passport. He lives in a long, quiet road in unsung Sydenham. When I went to see him before the publication of the book he was neatly dressed in black, rather in the fashion with which Japanese designers have conquered the world. He is very friendly and hospitable, indeed he struck me as actually happy, rare at anytime and certainly not what many seem while exposed to my skills as an interviewer. He is unexpectedly direct and open in his speech; he doesn’t fence or quibble.
To hear him he is not detectably foreign. He has a firmly middle-class accent spiced with South London sounds. I asked him if he remembered learning English. He didn’t. ‘I was only five. You pick it up awfully fast. I don’t ever remember a time when I actually felt inconvenienced