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Kazuo Ishiguro on the Past Year

Kazuo Ishiguro: ‘Some awful things have happened in the last year . . . but these are not uninteresting times’

By Mary Laura Philpott

With his eighth novel, “Klara and the Sun,” Kazuo Ishiguro, the Nobel Prize winner best known for “Remains of the Day” and “Never Let Me Go,” has another bestseller. This tale about a solar-powered “artificial friend” created to assuage the loneliness of a human teenager delves into profound aspects of the human experience: our instinct to protect and care for our loved ones, our need to be seen and understood, our poignant awareness of mortality. It’s a fable-like, moving read that would make fruitful fodder for book club discussions.

From his home in London, Ishiguro talked about the novel, the Nobel, parenthood, how he managed to stay afloat during the pandemic and more.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Q: Several of your previous books were on my mind as I read “Klara and the Sun.” It struck me that the deep need to prove our right to exist — to prove that we deserve to occupy whatever space we occupy, that our existence has had a purpose and has not been wasted — seems to be at the heart of so much of your writing. I thought about the butler in “Remains of the Day.” I thought about the clones in “Never Let Me Go.” The artificial friend, Klara. Why do you think you’ve returned so often to that idea? Or I guess I should first ask, do you think you’re returning again and again to that idea?

A: Yeah. I think you’re absolutely right. I come back to it from perhaps different angles. It’s not just what interests me about human beings; it’s what I admire about them, even when they go wrong. It’s what I love about human beings. We’re not like cows or sheep or whatever. We’re not content just to feed ourselves and reproduce and then die. We’ve got to keep asking ourselves, “Have I made a contribution? Have I been a good . . . ?” Even if I’m a criminal, I’d ask myself, “Have I been a good criminal? Have I been loyal to my gang members?” It’s just hard-wired into human beings. We want to say that we did it well, not just in terms of career, but in terms of being a parent or being a sibling or being a friend or being a spouse. Read the full interview at the Washington Post.

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