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SHORT STORY SUNDAY: Kazuo Ishguro’s “Nocturnes”


Kazuo Ishiguro is a writer of many genres: novels, short stories, and screen plays. He is Japanese-British and I think this creates a really interesting combination for his writing style. To me, Ishiguro’s works always feel relaxing. His writing completely calms me and it is almost like I am floating whilst reading his work. And not to play on stereotypes too much, but I think the tradition of the Japanese karesansui, or Zen garden, mixed with the quite British countryside comes together in Ishiguro’s works.

Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan in November 1954. His parents moved to England when he was five where he also completed all of his secondary and tertiary studies. Ishiguro is, in my opinion, one of the greatest British writers of our time. I think that he represents a facet of the complex nature of modern England because of his multi-racial multi-cultural life.

He has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize a few times and actually won it in 1989 with “The Remains of the Day”. He currently has seven novels out, and whilst you could argue that he is more of a novel writer, his short stories are just as amazing, breathtaking, and calming as ever. “Nocturnes” which is the focus of this month’s SHORT STORY SUNDAY review is actually a collection of five short stories published in 2009. The short stories are similar to that of a German romantic song cycle: each story is linked by theme and style. The word, ‘nocturne’ is a musical term that usually means music inspired by the night. These pieces are often moody, dark, and mysterious. Polish composer, Chopin was the master of the nocturne, in my opinion, and there are many elements of the musical style evoked in Ishiguro’s short stories.

The dust cover of the story collection states: “Five stories of music and nightfall”. However, I would add another theme to the list: love. In many ways the stories are about love in all of its forms. We see the loss of love, the kindling of love, the bonds and love of friendships lost and found, and really we see into the heart of love itself. These short stories are perfect for autumn, when you are reflecting on summer that you have just lost and when you are opening your heart to the darkness that will come with winter’s arrival.

“Nocturnes” gives you the feel of reading a novel, with the joy of short stories. Whilst they are linked by theme, each story offers a new contemplation of nightfall, music, and most of all, love.

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