One of my indulgences during time away from the Fire Escape is voracious reading. I finally had the chance to devour NEVER LET ME GO by British author Kazuo Ishiguro, a gripping novel about cloning that was honored by YALSA with an Alex Award (given to "adult books that will appeal to young adult readers.")
I've enjoyed a few of Ishiguro's other novels, relishing the author's mastery of understatement and his description of non-verbals. I've also marveled that as an Asian-born immigrant writer, Ishiguro has managed to escape being classified as such. Are Brit writers given more freedom than Americans to create protagonists of many ethnicities, I've wondered?
Ishiguro himself has said he doesn't write at all like Japanese novelists. In an interview with Allan Vorda and Kim Herzinger ("Stuck on the Margins: An Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro," FACE TO FACE: INTERVIEWS WITH CONTEMPORARY NOVELISTS), Ishiguro said, "if I wrote under a pseudonym and got somebody else to pose for my jacket photographs, I'm sure nobody would think of saying, 'This guy reminds me of that Japanese writer.'"
After reading NEVER LET ME GO, which like THE REMAINS OF THE DAY features no Japanese characters, I found myself wondering how much Ishiguro's first five years in Japan informed his writing.
A theme in both novels is the stultifying power of duty. As a public-school educated Brit, Ishiguro is definitely challenging the unquestioning obedience of the oppressed in British history. His grasp of how honor can blind us to injustice, however, also reminds me of how Japanese culture can be caricatured.
Here's my question: did a life between cultures enhance the ability to see how duty can dull our humanity, perhaps giving Ishiguro a double-edged advantage when it comes to writing this theme?
Read Margaret Atwood's review of NEVER LET ME GO in Slate.