Tuesday, 13 February 2018

My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs: The Nobel Lecture by Kazuo Ishiguro Review

My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs is Kazuo Ishiguro’s speech from when he was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature. It takes the form of a truncated career retrospective/autobiography, touching upon the creation of his more well-known books like The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go.

The lecture, in the author’s usual style, is eloquent and understated but not especially powerful, moving or thought-provoking either. And, as I was reading this, I began to wonder: did Kazuo Ishiguro really deserve the Nobel Prize? I mean, he’s a decent writer and I enjoyed The Remains of the Day (the only other book by Ishiguro I’ve read is An Artist of the Floating World which I didn’t like nearly as much) but have his contributions to literature warranted the Nobel? I don’t think he’s pioneered any innovative techniques or ideas, nor are his books especially pivotal or influential literary landmarks.

He also basically admits towards the end that he’s no longer relevant these days – hence the title’s focus on “Twentieth Century” – which I feel is true, going by his latest novel, The Buried Giant, a vague and unimpressive book that I tried and failed to get through (SO boring!). That said, the Nobel Prize for Literature has effectively been a lifetime achievement award - as opposed to being given to the writer who contributed the most to their field in the past year - for decades now anyway. Still, I’m not convinced he was ever that relevant a writer!

My Twentieth Century Evening is a well-crafted and readable though underwhelming and forgettable speech. Kazuo Ishiguro continues to be a skilful stylist with at least one great book to his name. At any rate, congrats, Kazuo!

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