Inspiring Writers & Friends

3 06 2015

kazuo-ishiguro-and-caryl-phillips-82

Kazuo Ishiguro and Caryl Phillips: a friendship ‘paved with books’

Kazuo Ishiguro’s nickname is not Kaz, as one may expect. Caz is the nickname of fellow author Caryl Phillips. Ishiguro is known as Ish. “I thought we needed some clarification,” Ishiguro told two audiences on Wednesday night in New York.

And while the opening of each talk was similar – the first with high school writers as part of the Unterberg Poetry Center’s Schools Project Program and the second at a bigger 92Y event – their more intimate conversation with the students about identity, memory and friendship became the evening’s highlight.

Ishiguro and Phillips have been friends for 30 years, since both their novels were “discovered” by editor Robert McCrum, and their relationship, and similarities, were a frequent topic.

“I don’t know if Caz and I have ever discussed each other’s work,” Ishiguro noted, when comparing how authors approach the work of their colleagues and peers. And while they may not have traded critiques, Phillips noted that their friendship has been a journey “paved with books”.

“When Ish writes a book, I read it. More terrifyingly, I teach it,” Phillips quipped.

Both writers were also immigrants to Great Britain: Ishiguro was five years old when he moved with his parents from Japan. Phillips was only four months old when he arrived with his parents from the island of Saint Kitts in the West Indies.

When asked about their impulses to write, both cited the desire to understand their parents, and their lives, better. “I wanted to understand where my parents came from, which is ultimately where I came from,” Phillips said. Ishiguro also expressed a curiosity for what life was like for his parents, but added that it’s selfish since “it’s really about myself”.

Elaborating further on his connection to the past in his writing, Phillips said it was a cliche, but true: “If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you are. If you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going.”

But both Ishiguro and Phillips added later that, as immigrants, there should be no obligation to explore the connection between their two cultures: “I can’t find much artistic energy for this as a novelist.”

Read further @ The Guardian

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