Kazuo Ishiguro: Hi, hello, Mr Smith, how are
you? Adam Smith: Very well. Thank you very much
indeed for calling, very kind. Congratulations on the award of the Nobel Prize.
KI: Yes, thank you. I’m sorry you were kept hanging on. It’s absolute chaos here I’m afraid.
There’s suddenly … a lot of press has turned up and they’re queued up the road.
AS: I can imagine. So, yes, your day must have changed in a totally unexpected way.
How did you hear this news? KI: Well I was sitting in the kitchen writing
an email to a friend and the phone rang. And it started off as not entirely certain. People
at my literary agents were watching the live feed come through on the announcement. I don’t
think they were expecting it, they were just waiting to hear who won the Nobel Prize this
year. And so I started to receive calls back to back, and each time we were trying to establish
if it was a hoax or if it was fake news, or what it was. And then it started to become
more and more certain. By the time the BBC called I started to take it seriously. But
I haven’t actually stopped since then. It’s a bit like the Marie Celeste here – everything’s
exactly as it was at about 11 o’clock, or whenever, before the whole thing started.
And then it was pandemonium. There’s now people queueing up the street to interview me.
AS: So has it sunk in? KI: No! No, I don’t think it will sink in
for a long time. I mean, it’s a ridiculously prestigious honour, in as far as these kinds
of things go. I don’t think you would have a more prestigious prize than the Nobel Prize.
And comments I would make, I mean, one is, a lot of that prestige must come from the
fact that the Swedish Academy has successfully, I think, kept above the fray of partisan politics
and so on. And I think it’s remained one of the few things that’s respected, whose integrity
is respected by many people around the world, and so I think a lot of the sense of honour
of receiving the Prize comes from the actual status of the Swedish Academy. And I think
that’s a great achievement unto itself, over all these years the Swedish Academy has managed
to retain that high ground, in all the different walks of life that it honours. And then the
other reason it’s a terrific honour for me is because … you know I come in a line of
lots of my greatest heroes, absolutely great authors. The greatest authors in history have
received this Prize, and I have to say, you know, it’s great to come one year after Bob
Dylan who was my hero since the age of 13. He’s probably my biggest hero.
AS: That’s nice company to be in. KI: Yeah. I do a very good Bob Dylan impersonation,
but I won’t do it for you right now. AS: That’s a pity, I would have liked that.
Maybe at least when you come to Stockholm in December, please.
KI: Yes, I could try that. AS: You must. It’s a funny time in Britain
at the moment. Does that place any particular significance for you on receiving the Prize
now? KI: I think it does. I mean, in fact just
before I picked up the phone to you I was writing a kind of statement for press release,
and I was trying to think what could I say in three lines, and I think the timing is
pertinent for me because I feel … I’m nearly 63 years old, I can’t remember a time when
we were so uncertain about our values in the western world. You know, I think we are going
through a time of great uncertainty about our values, about our leadership. People don’t
feel safe. So I do hope that things like the Nobel Prize will in some way contribute to
the positive things in the world, to the decent values in the world, and that it would contribute
to some sense of continuity and decency. Yeah. AS: I suppose what you have been writing about
all this time, in a way, is that question of our place in the world, our connection
to each other, our connection with the world. That is perhaps the theme you explore the
most, do you think? KI: Yes, I would say so, I mean I think … If
I could put it a little bit more narrowly that that, I mean it’s probably … one of
the things that’s interested me always is how we live in small worlds and big worlds
at the same time, that we have a personal arena in which we have to try and find fulfilment
and love. But that inevitably intersects with a larger world, where politics, or even dystopian
universes, can prevail. So I think I’ve always been interested in that. We live in small
worlds and big worlds at the same time and we can’t, you know, forget one or the other.
AS: Thank you, well, these are things to talk about on a different day I guess.
KI: Yes. AS: For the moment you have to work out how
you’re going to handle this line of press. Just a last thought – how do you feel about
the deluge of attention you’re about to receive? KI: Well, I think … I take it very positively.
I mean, while it’s a little unsettling because I had no idea when I woke up this morning
that it was going to be anything other than a very ordinary day, I think it’s a great
thing that the press, the media, take the Nobel Prize for Literature seriously. I’ll
be very alarmed if there was a day when somebody won the Nobel Prize for Literature and nobody
was interested. That would suggest that some awful things had happened to the world.
AS: A day to celebrate literature has to be a good day.
KI: Yes, and I think literature can be a great thing, it can be sometimes a force for bad
as well. You know I think things like the Nobel Prize for Literature exist to try and
ensure that it is a force for good. AS: Lovely. Well thank you very much indeed,
and we very much look forward to welcoming you to Stockholm in December.
KI: Yeah, really looking forward to it. Well, very nice to talk to you Mr Smith.
AS: Thank you very much indeed. KI: Take care now. Bye.