A Warning from Kazuo Ishiguro

What Ishiguro forgets to add are the crucial words “in English.” This is a problem of people writing in English. Everybody else writes with complete freedom.

In the twentieth century, literature in Russian was destroyed in this way. Now literature in English is following suit. This is a very culture-specific phenomenon that should be analyzed as such.

2 thoughts on “A Warning from Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. I’m a working novelist, and I’ve been having conversations about this with my agent, editors, and fellow writers. It’s real. Lionel Shriver is a good resource on this. However, to your point about ‘English language’ being a place where it happens, I’d also like to suggest that genres fuelled by critical approval – literary fiction, YA fiction, owing to its need for adult gatekeepers of teen morality – are primarily affected. Genres that survive through readers, without the critical infrastructure, thrive.

    Two recent examples. The romance genre (which I don’t write in, for the record) has had numerous attempts to woke-ify, all largely for naught, since the readers dictate the genre’s direction, not the critics, awards, book reviews from the NYT, etc. The crime and mystery genre likewise had a woke coup attempt, when alternatives to the Dagger awards were proposed because of how unwoke crime and mystery tends to be. This failed spectacularly and, indeed, it’s here that JK Rowling, as her alter ego, continues to thrive.

    It’s worth noting that in different ways both of these genres are tremendously conservative. The biggest selling romance niches revolve around normative gender dynamics that the woke crowd wants to destroy, while the crime and mystery novels play out fantasies that involve non-normative chaos corrected by a figure of authority, to reestablish societal order. It’s likewise worth nothing that in the year #metoo really got rolling, Fifty Shades of Grey became a cultural phenomenon.

    Ishiguro’s success depended on the consent of the literary establishment, particularly awards committees and critics. By now he’s so successful that it doesn’t really matter what he does. However, to his point, any writer who wants to write ‘literary’ fiction has to conform to the whims of the woke mob. Of course, ‘literary’ writers can rarely support themselves through readership alone, relying on college appointments that involve perhaps even more thorough conformity, grants, and awards.

    Liked by 2 people

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