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Sir Kazuo Ishiguro on Self-Censorship

“I very much fear for the younger generation of writers,” Sir Kazuo Ishiguro told the BBC.



The 66-year-old author and Nobel prize winner is concerned that writers, especially younger, less-established writers, were self-censoring by avoiding writing from certain viewpoints and characters outside their immediate experiences in an attempt to avoid being “canceled” or “trolled” on the internet. “I think that it is a sad state of affairs,” he adds.

His comments come during a time when authors such as Jenine Cummins and Julie Burchill have come under fire for comments they have made. His specific worry is that young writers “rightly perhaps feel that their careers are more fragile, their reputations are more fragile, and they don’t want to take risks.”

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When asked if he believed he could be canceled, Ishiguro said, “I think I’m in a privileged and relatively protected position because I’m a very established author. I’m the age I am. I have a reputation. Perhaps it is an illusion, but I think I am protected.” He does indeed have the reputation. Receiving the Nobel prize for Literature in 2017 and knighthood in 2019, Sir Kazuo has enjoyed a career spanning 40 years, penning critically acclaimed works such as Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day.



“Novelists should feel free to write from whichever viewpoint they wish or represent all kinds of views,” he asserts, “right from an early age, I’ve written from the point of view of people very different than me. My first novel was written from the point of view of a woman.” This is about his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, about a Japanese mother dealing with the aftermath of her daughter’s suicide.

While Ishiguro insists that authors should be free to write whatever they want, he does see the other side of the coin: “I think there are very valid parts of the argument about appropriation of voices. We do have an obligation to teach ourselves and to do research and to treat people with respect if we’re going to have them feature in our work.” He also states that he believes that there must be “decency towards people outside of one’s own immediate experience.” Ishiguro concludes that there should be a more open discussion on cancel culture and freedom of speech.

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Sir Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel Klara and the Sun, about a solar-powered robot that befriends a teenage girl, is set to be released today, March 2nd, 2021.

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