BLOG: British writer Kazuo Ishiguro wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
BLOG: British writer Kazuo Ishiguro wins Nobel Prize in Literature
Kazuo Ishiguro. Photo: AP Photo/Alastair Grant

British-Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro has won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature.


  • Kazuo Ishiguro wins 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature

15: 40 That's all for today

We're wrapping up this live blog, but make sure to follow The Local Norway for the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize tomorrow, and join us on Monday with live updates as the Nobel Prize for Economics is announced.

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15:29 Interview with Sara Danius on Ishiguro win

Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, has been speaking to journalists to explain exactly what made Ishiguro worthy of the award.

"Already at the start [of his work], you can see that he’s already worked out a style. And he keeps developing his style. He has found his voice," said Danius. "On the other hand, he renews his mode of writing by exploring interesting blends, or mixes. Every new book is a new experiment with genre, and you can see that in pretty clear terms."

One journalist suggested that the writer's love of the guitar gave him something in common with last year's winner, Bob Dylan, but Danius said that had not been a factor in his selection. "I would have to ask the other people on the committee, but no, no, of course not," she said.

Danius put forward a few recommendations for readers who hadn't yet discovered Ishiguro's work, suggesting 1989 novel The Remains of the Day as a starting pointing.

She added: "I think The Buried Giant is a wonderful novel. And The Unconsoled is a Kafkaesque experiment that I would recommend too – a little hard in the beginning, but it’s definitely well worth the trouble."

15:05 'Time was ripe' for Ishiguro's win

The Local's contributor Eugenia Tanaka has spoken to Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy.

Danius said "the time was ripe" for Ishiguro to win the prize, and celebrated his work for exploring "what people in general have to forget in order to survive".

We'll add the full interview to the blog shortly.

14:00 'We're THRILLED'

Kazuo Ishiguro's publishers have said they are 'thrilled' he has won the Nobel Prize. Read more here.

13:45 Novels to add to your reading list

13:37 'People are not two-thirds one thing and the remainder something else'

Kazuo Ishiguro, as we mentioned below, was born in Nagasaki but moved to Britain with his family at the age of five, and has lived there ever since. He was once asked in an interview if he identifies as British or Japanese, and said it was a bit of both but difficult to describe how the two mix.

"People are not two-thirds one thing and the remainder something else. Temperament, personality or outlook don't divide quite like that. The bits don't separate clearly. You end up a funny mixture. This is something that will become more common in the latter part of the century – people with mixed cultural backgrounds, and mixed racial backgrounds. That's the way the world is going," he told Bomb Magazine back in 1989.

13:25 'I'm very proud of him'

There was an audible cheer from Japanese reporters in the room when Kazuo Ishiguro was announced as the winner. Jun Shimazaki from Kyodo News just told The Local's contributor Eugenia Tanaka: "I'm very happy. Although he is a British author, he was born in Nagasaki, and that influences the nature of his writing. We're surprised and very happy. I'm very proud of him."

Swedish Academy Permanent Secretary Sara Danius. Photo: Alexander Larsson Vierth/TT

13:15 British author born in Japan

Kazuo Ishiguro is a British-Japanese author well-known for his novels 'The Remains of the Day' and 'Never Let Me Go'. Both have been turned into movies, The Remains of the Day (1989) starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, and Never Let Me Go (2005) starring Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley.

Ishiguro was born in Japan but moved with his family to the United Kingdom when he was five years old.

13:10 Watch the announcement in the video below

13:00 And the Nobel Prize goes to...

... Kazuo Ishiguro, "who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world".

12:47 Thank your teachers

12:40 Finally!

This is the door through which the Swedish Academy's Permanent Secretary Sara Danius will come out in just 20 minutes, to reveal this year's winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. They usually try to call the winner around half an hour before the official announcement, so if they manage to reach them, there's right now a hopefully very excited author somewhere out there in the world who can't wait to tell his or her family and friends.

It's become a bit of an unofficial tradition to yell 'äntligen!' (or 'finally!') when the winner is announced, although you don't hear it as much these days. It was started by Swedish journalist Gert Fylking in the late 1990s and was a tongue-in-cheek way of making fun of the fact that the Nobel Prize winner (let's be honest) very often is somebody very few people have every heard of.

Fylking was eventually banned from attending the announcement by the then Permanent Secretary Horace Engdahl (he then once entered in disguise instead), but if you listen hard you can usually hear someone, somewhere in the audience shouting it when the winner is revealed.

The famous door. Photo: Eugenia Tanaka/The Local

12:30 Thought the Nobel Prize was uncontroversial?

There's an ongoing campaign to convince the Nobel Foundation to divest its holdings in fossil fuels. Last year 14 Nobel laureates signed a letter urging the foundation to invest in more climate-friendly funds, and this year we found a member of grassroots movement Divest Nobel protesting outside the Stock Exchange building.

12:18 Less than an hour to go

The Local's contributor Eugenia Tanaka is at the Stockholm Stock Exchange building (Börshuset) in the Old Town where the winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced in less than an hour. The building was originally constructed for the Stockholm Stock Exchange in the 1770s and is today home to the Nobel Museum, and to the Swedish Academy, whose members selects the literature laureates.

So how do the literary powers go about picking the winner, we hear you ask? In his will, Alfred Nobel decreed that the literature prize should be decided by the Swedish Academy (Svenska Akademien). The academy was founded way back in 1786 by no less than royalty – King Gustaf III, to be precise.

From an initial nomination phase which can produce hundreds of names, a preliminary list of around 20 is settled on in April, before it's reduced to five by the summer.

The Academy's 18 members (in theory, but various controversies through the years have seen some choose not to participate actively in meetings) then pick the winner in October through a vote. In order for it to stand, the candidate must gain more than half of the votes cast. Permanent Secretary Sara Danius is the person tasked with announcing the victor.

As for what the winner gains: aside from taking home the world's most prestigious prize in literature, there's also the minor matter of a nine million kronor ($1.1 million) award, plus a banquet dinner with Sweden's King in December. 

The Stockholm Stock Exchange building. Photo: Eugenia Tanaka/The Local

Journalists in the room where the press conference will be held. Photo: Eugenia Tanaka/The Local

11:55 How do bookstores prepare for the Nobel Prize?

Bo Greider at Söderbokhandeln in Stockholm tells The Local there's always a big rush for the winner's novels (it's the standard Christmas present in Sweden), so they try to do what little they can in order to prepare.

"We take a guess and we see which books we have or don't have by those authors we think might win. So we make some preparations, but it's very hard to guess. So we don't worry too much because we won't know until we know."

So who does he think will take home the prize this year? He says he is not sure:

"No, but here at the shop we have a few guesses. The names that came up were of the Korean poet Ko Un, and also the Polish author Olga Tokarczuk. But some people also talk about the Kenyan writer Thiong'o."

Bo Greider, Söderbokhandeln. Photo: Eugenia Tanaka/The Local

11:45 Another Bob Dylan?

As always, there's plenty of speculation ahead of the announcement, although most seem to agree that the normally so discreet Swedish Academy will pick someone slightly less controversial than last year's Bob Dylan. The first singer-songwriter to win the prestigious prize, the rock legend didn't comment on his Nobel for several weeks and then snubbed the formal prize ceremony in Stockholm.

Here's what the AFP news agency wrote earlier:

The Academy is known for its cloak-and-dagger methods to prevent any leaks, resorting to code names for authors and fake book covers when reading in public.

Pundits therefore try to dissect the Academy's latest interests to guess the winner, while punters have a field day on betting sites.

On Wednesday, novelists Haruki Murakami of Japan and Ngugi wa Thiong'o of Kenya had the lowest odds on numerous sites. They were followed by Canada's Margaret Atwood, whose novel 'The Handmaid's Tale' was recently made into a well-received TV series, and Israel's Amos Oz.

But as always, when it comes to the Swedish Academy: Expect the unexpected.

11:40 Nobel Prize in Literature

Greetings from Stockholm, where the Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced later today. Our contributor Eugenia Tanaka is currently on her way to the Swedish Academy's headquarters in Stockholm's Old Town (Gamla Stan), and running this live blog for you is our editor Emma Löfgren. Follow us on Twitter here

The Swedish Academy's headquarters in Stockholm. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT


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