Monday, 9 March 2015

Bath Festival of Literature Part #2

There were  a couple of events which I should have liked to see, as part of the festival, but could not as they clashed with my London trip (it's  hard life!).

However, on Friday evening I was back in Bath, at the Guildhall,to see Kazuo Ishiguro interviewed about his new novel, The Buried Giant. 

It was an interesting evening. Ishiguro began by reading the first few pages of the novel, and was  then interviewed by Alex Clark.

He explained that he had been thinking about writing a novel about the issues covered in The Buried Giant for about 15 years, and that he had wanted to write a book which , unlike most of his earlier novels, which are written in the first person and address issues of individual memories, and that he has always been interested in how nations remember and forget.

He talked about the issue of when is it (is it ever?) the right thing to do, for a nation to bury dark memories. 

This book is, he explained, an exploration of that process of remembering and forgetting applied to a marriage and to a nation.

He decided to set the book in a distant and mythical time and place, despite thinking about lots of modern examples, such as the situations in Rwanda, in Kosovo, in France during and after WW2 in part because he is not a journalistic novelist, and does not do lots of factual research in a way that would be necessary if the novel were set in a specific, recent time and place, but also because "that is not the kind of truth I am trying to create" - he was thinking of patterns that recur over and over, and did not want to be nailed down to one specific point in history.

He was then asked about whether the book was fantasy, bearing in mind that it has ogres and pixies in. I was a little disappointed at his response. It would have been nice to hear him say, yes, it's fantasy, and it is also a literary novel. But he didn't. Instead, he spoke of his surprise that the issue had got much attention, that he felt that boundaries between genres are shifting and that he had 'felt free' to do this - he even went so far as to say that if there were sides, he was on the side of the ogres, and did not want "the imagination police" leaning over his shoulder to tell him what he could or could not write. .  .but only after carefully identifying himself as a 'literary novelist', using fantasy as a tool. It would have been nice had he simply said "Yes, it's fantasy".

Be that as it may, it was an interesting discussion, and I am looking forward to reading the novel.

No comments: