Kazuo Ishiguro introduces new novel to Edinburgh International Book Festival audience

The internationally renowned British author Kazuo Ishiguro spoke of his struggles to write his first novel in ten years at an Edinburgh International Book Festival event last night, held in front of a sell-out audience at the Lyceum Theatre. Ishiguro, author of seven novels including The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, was launching his new book, The Buried Giant.

Ishiguro admitted that as he gets older he needs a very special project to motivate him, something that is worth the angst of writing. ‘I don’t wish just to contribute to the quantity of novels, if I write a book, I want to contribute to changing the skyline of the literary landscape – it has to be a little different, and I find there are fewer and fewer of these as I gain experience as a writer.’

In conversation with Serena Field, BBC Producer, Ishiguro spoke of both the critical and public reaction to his new book, expressing surprise that there was so much interest in the mythical landscape of the novel, particularly his use of ogres. He said ‘I went into this rather naively and didn’t intend to step into the fantasy genre. But novels are really rather difficult to write, and I get desperate when I’m trying to make the story work. I have a kernel but pieces of the jigsaw are missing. I needed a land where people were suffering a collective memory loss, a peculiarly controlled memory loss. I thought people would think it was normal and I’m rather offended on behalf of my ogres.’

He went on to discuss the shifting parameters in mainstream fiction, saying that a number of modern authors are breaking down the traditional boundaries between genres, between popular and literary fiction. ‘I don’t want the imagination police looking over my shoulder – I want to use what I want’.

He spoke of his use of a first person narrator in a number of his books where he wishes the reader to eavesdrop on a conversation between the narrator and an imaginary listener rather than the narrator speaking directly to the reader. In The Buried Giant he uses the device as a tour guide to the mythical past in which the story is set. He disclosed that his first intention had been for the narrator to address an audience which would gradually be revealed to be the dead children, the ghosts of slaughtered innocents, however as the novel progressed this became more obscure and, by his own admission, half-hearted and while traces of the idea were still there he thought it unlikely that many readers would be aware of it.

Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, who introduced Ishiguro announced that, thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, this was the first of a series of events where the Book Festival would be bringing authors, books and reading to audiences across Scotland throughout the year. The Edinburgh International Book Festival will take place from 15 to 31 August 2015 and the full programme, and ticket sales, will be launched in June. More information can be found at www.edbookfest.co.uk.

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