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Ishiguro channels Clint Eastwood

Ishiguro channels Clint Eastwood

Who would have thought that the author who brought us Stevens the butler in Remains of the Day (Booker winner in 1989) has secretly been harbouring a desire to write about that staple of film Westerns, a lone man on a horse? It has, it seems, long been Kazuo Ishiguro's wish and it has now come to fruition with his new novel The Buried Giant. The story is set in post-Roman Britain where Anglo-Saxon incomers and natives are filling the vacuum left by the departed legions. There are monsters, ogres, giants and the Arthurian, Sir Gawain, in the mix too. Indeed it is Gawain who is Ishiguro's pale rider: ‘There’s a real sense that there’s a whole world travelling there in that man . . . he’s out of time, somebody who belongs to a more violent world. And peaceful people need him when violence is needed, but he’s not really welcome in a peaceful community.’ There is another surprising inspiration for this seemingly un-Ishiguroish scenario: ‘I didn’t want a fantasy world where anything weird could happen. I went along with what happened in the Samurai tales I grew up on. If it’s conceivable that the people of the time had these superstitions or beliefs, then I would allow it.’ So much for Kipling's ‘East is East, West is West, and never the twain shall meet.’

Hilary Mantel, sorry, Dame Hilary Mantel, has been speaking in Australia ahead of the Perth Writers' Festival. With the general election on 7 May getting closer she has posed one of history's more intriguing what ifs? Asked about her hero Thomas Cromwell she noted casually that ‘I think if there were a general election here, he might win it.’ One imagines he would indeed run rings around Messrs Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and Farage. The two-time Man Booker winner had mixed news for the innumerable readers impatient for the third part of her trilogy. ‘I hear on the one hand that it [The Mirror and the Smoke] will be out next week, on the other hand that it will be at least 10 years, neither of these is true,’ she says. Her best guess is 12 to 18 months.

An insight into the current Man Booker laureate Richard Flanagan is writing life is offered in a charming short film in which he talks about how he goes about things. The camera follows him to an isolated shack on Bruny Island – home to around 600 people, an iconic lighthouse, an oyster farm and an endangered species of Pardalote birds – off the coast of Tasmania. Flanagan confesses to being halfway through a new novel and notes that as the writing progresses he gradually clears out his writing room – words taking the place of possessions. He also admits to coming up with material in the most unlikely place: while he's snorkelling.

Jewish Book Week is just starting in London and the roster of events includes appearances by various Man Booker figures. Among those taking part are the 2010 winner Howard Jacobson (talking to John Mullan, a judge in 2009), short- and longlistees Charlotte Mendelson, Linda Grant and A.D. Miller and, in one of the more intriguing groupings, Sam Leith (a judge this year), Erica Wagner (last year) and Natalie Haynes (2013) will be talking about judging prizes with Daniel Glaser (also a judge last year). The sound of beans being spilled should be deafening.