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Kazuo Ishiguro at the Oxford Literary Festival

This year’s Oxford Literary Festival opened with a talk given by acclaimed novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. With his new novel The Buried Giant being one of the bestselling books in Britain at the moment, it was no surprise that the event gathered so many people.

As a self-declared Ishiguro fan, I was among those people, and it was the best event to mark my first experience of a literary festival. Needless to say, the event met and surpassed my expectations. Ishiguro was interviewed in front of over 200 people, and he discussed aspects of his new book, as well as writing in general. The award-winning author answered questions ( both from the audience and the interviewer, Lorien Kite) about the choice of topic for his book The Buried Giant, stating that he meant to explore the concept of collective memory and what we choose to remember and forget. He found inspiration in the Second World War and the Yugoslavian conflict, where societies struggled with the memory of the atrocities, cooperatively made attempts to forget them. When asked about the mythological setting in the Dark Ages of England, Ishiguro answered that he used the legends of King Arthur as background, and that he considered a land of superstition, dragons and pixies, the best setting to accompany the unusual forgetfulness and the menace of war.

Having followed Ishiguro’s progress as he promoted his new book, these answers did not bring anything new to me. However, it was nice to hear him saying the words that I only read online and it certainly gave his statements more credibility. This does not mean that I did not get anything new out of the event. The author gave his opinion on the fluidity of genre and explained that it was younger authors, such as David Mitchell, who gave him the courage to combine literary and popular fiction. On the same matter, he expressed his belief that genres should not constitute barriers in an author’s work and that, on the whole, genres are just a marketing strategy. Ishiguro also discussed his personal tastes and how they influenced his work. That his passion for John Ford’s films influenced certain elements of The Buried Giant, and growing up with samurai stories and Akira Kurosawa’s films left a mark in most of his literary works.

The experience of hearing him talk about his books in person was enhanced by the book signing that followed the event. Waiting in the queue gave me the opportunity to meet another member of the audience who was not as familiar with Kazuo Ishiguro’s books. I grabbed this chance to discuss Ishiguro’s books with her- and by that I mean flood her with arguments about how good they all are and how she should read them all repeatedly. After waiting for about half an hour I got my favourite book signed and I left crossing another thing off my bucket list.

Participating to this festival sparked my interest for literary festivals, and I am looking forward to the next one. For those who haven’t been to one before, I definitely recommend it. My only advice is to go to see an author you are actually interested in and who’s books you’ve read. It will add to your experience and improve your knowledge.

Image c/o www.geograph.co.uk

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