Inspiring Writers & Friends

3 06 2015

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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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Black Issues, White Writers?

14 01 2012


Where are Britain’s black writers?

It seems our stories are truly acknowledged only when coming from the pen of white authors

It seems like a boom time for black literature and drama. Tiny Sunbirds Far Away, which focuses on the life of a young girl in Nigeria, is shortlisted for the Costa first novel award next month. Pigeon English, the story of a Ghanaian boy living in Peckham, made the Booker shortlist. And Channel 4′s Top Boy, depicting black gangster life in Hackney, east London, has just been commissioned for a second series. A reason to be cheerful in shiny, diverse, Britain surely?

Well, maybe not. These three works are all the creations of white authors. There is clearly no shortage of talented black writers – Courttia Newland, Malorie Blackman and Andrea Levy, to name a few – so why is it that, right now, the stories that receive the most mainstream recognition all seem to be the ones written by white people?

I would never tell an author only to “write what you know” – if everybody did this, there would be many fewer stories, and nowhere near as many interesting ones. It’s always good to think outside your own personal box, and if you do your research – Ronan Bennett said his research for Top Boy took years – and are thoughtful about it, you can tell a good story about any kind of person without making it into a train wreck, as these titles demonstrate.

Caption: Kwame Kwei-Armah, Bola Agbaje and Roy Williams

Read full article @ UK Black Writers Board