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Desert Island Discs

Kazuo Ishiguro

Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images

This month Kazuo Ishiguro published his eighth novel, Klara and the Sun, about the friendship between a little girl and a robot. At 25, he took a creative writing course at the University of East Anglia: after trying to be a songwriter and spending an “intense” year working with homeless people in west London, the idea of going back to university was “very appealing,” he tells Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs. He grew up in Guildford, Surrey, after moving from Japan at the age of five. Although postwar England was not a multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan place, he remembers “people were marvellously generous and kind to our family.”

As a boy, Ishiguro didn’t understand the significance of his birthplace, Nagasaki. “I grew up thinking that every town had an atomic bomb dropped on them,” he says. “Distinctly I recall, when I was about seven, realising with a kind of pride that Nagasaki was one of only two places in history that had ever been atom-bombed.” On his first day of school, he was followed by curious peers who had never met a Japanese boy before. While learning English, he picked up “all this Wild West frontier language” from popular cowboy TV shows. “I would go to school and say howdy.”

🎵 Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye, Leonard Cohen

🎵 Nocturne in D flat major, Chopin

🎵 Now Westlin Winds, Dick Gaughan

🎵 Tryin’ to Get to Heaven, Bob Dylan

🎵 Hickory Wind, Emmylou Harris

🎵 They Can’t Take That Away from Me, George Gershwin

🎵 Blame It on My Youth, Keith Jarrett Trio

🎵 I’m Not Afraid to Die, Gillian Welch

📕 Chekhov short stories

🎁 Big scroll of paper

Listen to the whole episode here.