I wasn’t aware that at the time of original publication in 1995 it had been panned by large parts of the literary media. I only know this now because I listened to a fascinating documentary about it just this week, presented by Natasha Hodgson in its own style just the other day on BBC R4 “Exploding Library” series. (Link live for a year.)
I’m re-reading it.
Post Note: Might not be a coincidence, but after posting the above last week, this week I found myself at the cinema watching “Living” – solely on the strength of the fact we have a new cinema locally. “Living”, amidst the menu of wall-to-wall DC / Marvel characters and kids pre-Christmas cartoons, we both recognised as “well-received” and with Bill Nighy in the lead role in the trailers. What’s not to like? Hadn’t actually read any reviews or done any research.
We spotted Ishiguro in the opening titles, but it wasn’t until afterwards I checked out the creative history. Apart from the fact the story is tremendously powerful – no spoilers here – about our individual place(s) in the human world, here and now despite being set in the 1950’s / 60’s, the whole narrative is emotive, evocative. Sure, some set-piece scenes, where the characters explicitly voice the moral(s) of the tale, but mostly person-to-person, every-day, understated, incomplete dialogues and actions with joins to be inferred to make the overall narrative. Brilliantly done.
And the emotive incidental piano music – another Ishiguro trait – even in his writing.
Given the rhetorical devices of “Unconsoled” in the links above I was instantly intrigued. Had Ishiguro written the story this way and how was the book – I’d never been aware of the existence of – turned into the screenplay?
Well, there is no Ishiguro book and the story doesn’t exist in written form in English, except as translation of Leo Tolstoy’s 1886 “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” forming the basis of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 Japanese film “Ikiru”. The actual screenplay of “Living” being written by Ishiguro based on that film. Makes sense. Except now, as well as the creative writing lessons in the film / screenplay, I have two new references to follow-up. Reading lists never get shorter.
[And talking of emotive piano music – the whole of Christine (Perfect) McVie “Songbird” just closing BBC Radio 4 Today 1st December 2022. RIP.]