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UEA congratulates alumnus Kazuo Ishiguro on 2017 Nobel Prize

Kazuo Ishiguro, who has won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, joined the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) MA in Creative Writing in 1979, graduating the following year.

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, reacted to the “fabulous news”.

Prof Cook 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."

UEA Vice-Chancellor Prof David Richardson said: “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.”

Mr Ishiguro is due to appear at the UEA Literary Festival on October 11, and is also giving a masterclass to current MA students. When he last visited the University in 2013 to work with MA Prose Fiction students, he was “extraordinarily warm, generous, informative, helpful and intelligent. We even got to advise him on the title of his next novel, which became of course The Buried Giant,” said Henry Sutton, a senior lecturer in Creative Writing at UEA.

Mr Sutton said: “In person he is every bit as engaging and unassuming as his remarkable fiction.”

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.”

Alison Donnell, Head of UEA’s School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, said the award is “A tremendous honour and well-deserved for a writer whose writings have touched readers globally, with their intricate renderings of human experience and the particular hold of memory. The literary magnificence of his fiction is captured in Kazuro Ishiguro's capacity to transport readers effortlessly and powerfully across time and place and urge them to reflect on what matters most.”

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