Kazuo Ishiguro: A Creative Writing student of UEA

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature joined the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) MA in Creative Writing in 1979. For the EACWP, this award is also an occasion of great celebration on behalf of our Brittish colleagues and the rest of our pedagogical community devoted to the Creative Writing teaching. This text -originally published by the UEA- comprises some of Ishiguro’s testimonies as a Creative Writing student  as well as some enriching accounts from his teachers

In an anthology compiled for the 40th anniversary of UEA’s Creative Writing programme in 2011, Mr. Ishiguro wrote of his first weeks in Norfolk and on campus:

“I had that autumn arrived with my one suitcase, a guitar and a portable Olivetti typewriter in Buxton, Norfolk – a small village with an old water mill and flat farm fields all around it. I’d come to this place because I’d been accepted on a one-year postgraduate Creative Writing course at the University of East Anglia.”

Prof. Jon Cook, who taught Mr. Ishiguro when he was an MA student at UEA, said: “His impact on English literature is the result of a remarkable imaginative synthesis of the styles and sensibilities of two cultures: the Japanese and the English. His work is informed by his experience of both cultures, even when he is not writing directly about their interaction.”

In his memories of his days as a UEA student, Mr. Ishiguro wrote: “I’d rented a room in a small house occupied by a youngish man whose wife of two years had just left him.  No doubt, for him, the house was filled with the ghosts of his wrecked dreams – or perhaps he just wanted to avoid me; in any case, I wouldn’t set eyes on him for days on end. In other words, after the frenetic life I’d been leading in London, here I was, faced with an unusual amount of quiet and solitude in which to transform myself into a writer.

“It was in this room that I examined carefully the two short stories I’d written over the summer, wondering if they were too dreadful to submit to my new classmates. At that point in my life, I’d written virtually nothing else in the way of prose fiction, having earned my place on the course with a radio play rejected by the BBC. In fact, having previously made firm plans to become a rock star by the time I was twenty, my literary ambitions had only just made themselves known to me.

“Then quite suddenly one night, during perhaps my third or fourth week in that little room, I found myself writing, with a new and urgent intensity, about Japan – about Nagasaki, the city of my birth, in the last days of the Second World War.”

Prof. Christopher Bigsby, director of UEA’s Autumn Literary Festival, said Mr. Ishiguro’s “early novels were characterised by a tightly controlled prose and concerned people, on the fringes of major events, who committed themselves to the wrong cause.

“A theme which runs through all his novels has to do with characters trying to make sense of their lives, that and a concern with memory. The question is whether recalling the past is necessary or whether there are dangers. It is hard to think of a country in which this is not a relevant question or indeed individual lives in which this is not pertinent.”

Vice-Chancellor Prof. David Richardson added: “Norwich is England’s first UNESCO City of Literature for good reason and this is in no small part due to UEA’s creative writing courses. Nothing could make us prouder at UEA than a Nobel Prize winning alumnus and I’m absolutely delighted for Kazuo Ishiguro. We look forward to welcoming him next week when he opens the 25th annual Arthur Miller International Literary Festival.”

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