Ishiguro Explains How He Wrote Remains of the Day in 4 Weeks

'Guardian' is re-running 2014 piece in wake of Nobel win
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2017 6:09 PM CDT
Kazuo Ishiguro Wrote Remains of the Day in 4 Weeks
British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro speaks during a press conference at his home in London, Thursday Oct. 5, 2017.   (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

In the wake of Kazuo Ishiguro being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Guardian is re-running a 2014 piece the author wrote for the paper about how he wrote his most famous work, Remains of the Day, in just four weeks. It was 1987, and he'd quit his day job five years prior. His writing career was going well, but his first "flurry of public success" brought along with it quite a few distractions; in nearly a year, he'd written just the opening chapter of a new novel. Though conventional wisdom dictates novelists should only write for about four hours at a stretch before "diminishing returns set in," he and his wife decided that for four weeks, he "would do nothing but write from 9am to 10:30pm," six days a week, with three hours off per day for meals. No mail, no phone, no visitors, no cooking, no housework allowed.

"In this way, so we hoped, I’d not only complete more work quantitively, but reach a mental state in which my fictional world was more real to me than the actual one," he explains. He wrote freehand, and he didn't worry about details like the style, whether the plotline contradicted itself at times, or even whether the writing was any good. He just wanted to get the ideas flowing, and when the four weeks were over, the novel was basically done. (He notes that before embarking on the four-week period, he'd done much of the research required for the book, and after, he took more time "to write it all up properly.") The full piece is worth a read. Meanwhile, in the present day, Ishiguro weighed in on his Nobel win: He told the BBC the honor is "flabbergastingly flattering," but also added he was initially unsure what he was hearing was real: "I thought that in this age of false news, it was perhaps a mistake." (More Kazuo Ishiguro stories.)

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