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The dangerous life of Kazuo Ishiguro

The dangerous life of Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro, Man Booker winner way back in 1999 and Nobel Laureate, has a new title to add to his impressive list; he is now “Sir Kazuo”. The novelist recently rocked up at Buckingham Palace in his best bib and tucker to be knighted by Prince Charles (whose wife, of course, is an ardent supporter of the prize). Ishiguro, in his unflappable way, took the event in his stride. “It is all part of my story of coming from a different country and growing up in this country,” said Sir Kazuo, “It is part of my big love affair with Britain and British culture.” It was not, however, the first time the novelist and the Prince of Wales had met and the previous encounter also involved a deadly weapon, though in that instance a gun rather than a sword. In his younger days Ishiguro had been a grouse beater at Balmoral and one of the guns was the Prince. “It was all a bit scary, to be honest,” Ishiguro said. “The aristocrats would fire away with their guns, and it was lucky if you did not get shot yourself.” A novelist peppered with shot sounds like the plot of a Tom Sharpe novel.

We were saddened to hear the news that author Andrea Levy, passed away on Thursday 14 February at the horribly young age of 62. She was shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize for her novel The Long Song.  Levy, the daughter of a father who arrived in Britain on the Windrush, came to writing the hard way, starting a CityLit creative writing course in her 30s and sticking with it for seven years until she felt herself proficient enough to strike out with a novel. She was driven in part by a desire to write books that would reflect the experiences of young black women like herself. Before her career took off, she also worked part-time in the costume departments of the BBC and the Royal Opera House and started a graphic design company with her husband Bill Mayblin. Her books have sold a total of 1.23 million copies and have been filmed for television, success that perhaps made her that little bit more sanguine about her approaching death. As she said last autumn with wonderful sang froid: “We’re all going to die. It’s just that I’ve got a pretty good idea when I’m going to die and you don’t.”

Having played the baddie in the smash-hit Marvel movie Black Panther it seems only logical that the American actor Michael B Jordan would want to bag a part of Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the film version of the new novel by the 2015 Man Booker winner Marlon James. Jordan has secured the rights for the film to be financed by Warner Brothers. The odds are that he’ll play an acting role in the eventual film but for the moment he is the “executive producer”. A scriptwriter has still to be announced so the names of the actors in James’s “African Game of Thrones” will be some time in coming. James has noted that: “It would be interesting to see how [the novel] would be adapted, because I still think our cinematic language of sci-fi and fantasy is still very European – particularly fantasy, and my book is not even remotely European.”

The Guardian recently asked a selection of leading writers to recommend a short story. Among those approached was a cluster of Man Booker novelists. Hilary Mantel, for example, went for The Tribute by Jane Gardam: “I must have read it a dozen times, to see how its note is sustained and the surprise is sprung;” she said, “every time it makes me smile with delight.” George Saunders went for The Stone Boy by Gina Berriault, which, he said, “like any great work of art, resists reduction”. Sarah Hall recommended Paradise by Edna O’Brien because “The story is lit with sexual chemistry, but travels a horribly misaligned path.” While Jhumpa Lahiri went for The Siren by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa for the way the author renders the story’s central character, a “fatefully seductive creature. . . specific, vulnerable and real”. Other pickers included John Banville, Julian Barnes, Sebastian Barry, and Colm Toíbín.

On the subject of short stories, one of the mistress of the form, A S Byatt, is about to have some of her stories (and her novels) released as audiobooks for the first time. You can plug into Audible’s versions of Sugar & Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, Elementals: Stories of Ice and Fire and Little Black Book of Stories from 21 February. Meanwhile Juliet Stevenson reads the 2009 Man Booker shortlisted novel The Children’s Book and Samuel West narrates the 1990 Man Booker winner Possession. Long car journeys never seemed so appealing.