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Ishiguro superhero

Ishiguro superhero

While in Sweden to pick up his Nobel Prize for literature, Kazuo Ishiguro, Man Booker winner in 1989, discussed the next stage of his writing career. Where indeed does an author go who has already scooped the world's biggest and most prestigious gongs? Comic books is Ishiguro's answer. They are, after all, in his blood: the manga comic tradition being part of Japanese cultural life and Ishiguro has spoken in the past of his love for American superhero comics of the 1930s. The eastern and western comic-book forms have “now married” in an exciting way, he says. Although he is not yet sure of how he will approach the genre he is excited by the potential: “I think all storytelling forms need to be explored.” Given that he won the Man Booker with The Remains of the Day perhaps a superhero named “Butlerman” would be a good place to start.

Ishiguro did not say whether he was acting in response to a depressing new survey by Arts Council England which found that it has become harder than ever for literary writers to live by their pen. The report analysed sales data since 2007 and saw a dip of more than £100 million. The number-crunchers found that “Outside of the top 1,000 authors (at most), printed book sales alone simply cannot provide a decent income. While this has long been suspected, the data shows unambiguously that it is the case . . . What’s more, this is a generous assessment. After the retailer, distributor, publisher and agent have taken their cut, there won’t be a lot of money left from 3,000 sales of the 1,000th bestselling title. That we are returning to a position where only the best-off writers can support themselves should be a source of deep concern.” The reasons for this decline are complex but the report's authors name two in particular – the recession and smartphones. “In comparison with our smartphones, literary fiction is often ‘difficult’ and expensive: it isn’t free, and it requires more concentration than Facebook or Candy Crush.” The news makes supportive prizes such as the Man Booker more important than ever.

A compliment (possibly) from Jeremy Clarkson: asked the question “How do you feel about being someone people think of when it comes to representing Britain and British culture?” he responded with another question: “What, more than the Man Booker Prize winner?” Perhaps Clarkson is not much of a reader. The current Man Booker winner, George Saunders, is American.

Mohsin Hamid, Man Booker shortlistee this year with his tale of migration Exit West, has expressed his hope that the flux of peoples around the world might soon be seen as an unequivocally good thing. “The hope is,” he said, “that new cities are born, people move, new stuff begins to happen, better food is created, there’s better music, people having sex who wouldn’t be having sex before, and enjoying it much more now.” That seems a ready-made message for politicians to sell.

Poacher turned gamekeeper . . . Alain Mabanckou, the Congolese poet and novelist who was a nominee for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize, has been announced as one of the judges for the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing. The prize is awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English and takes its name from a Man Booker grandee, Sir Michael Caine, who was Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee for nearly 25 years. The winner will be announced on 2nd July.

Finally, the Man Booker Prize announced a year-long anniversary campaign celebrating its 50th birthday this morning. In 2018, a range of activities – from Man Booker authors speaking at literary festivals all over the world, to a two-day literary extravaganza (the Fiction at its Finest Festival) at London’s Southbank – will introduce new audiences to the winning, shortlisted and longlisted authors over the past 50 years.