Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ishiguro in Sydenham

There was an article in the Guardian last week about the author Kazuo Ishiguro in which he recalled writing his 1989 novel The Remains of the Day (later filmed starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson) while living in Sydenham.
'I was then 32 years old, and we’d recently moved into a house in Sydenham, south London, where for the first time in my life I had a dedicated study. (I’d written my first two novels at the dining table.) It was actually a kind of large cupboard on the half-landing and lacked a door, but I was thrilled to have a space where I could spread my papers around as I wished and not have to clear them away at the end of each day. I stuck up charts and notes all over the peeling walls and got down to writing...

On my first Sunday off I ventured outdoors, on to Sydenham high street, and persistently giggled – so Lorna told me – at the fact that the street was built on a slope, so that people coming down it were stumbling over themselves, while those going up were panting and staggering effortfully. Lorna was concerned I had another three weeks of this to go, but I explained I was very well, and that the first week had been a success...

I'd consumed a substantial amount of “research”: books by and about British servants, about politics and foreign policy between the wars, many pamphlets and essays from the time, including one by Harold Laski on “The Dangers of Being a Gentleman”. I’d raided the second-hand shelves of the local bookshop (Kirkdale Books, still a thriving independent) for guides to the English countryside from the 1930s and 50s'
'When Ishiguro  first became a public figure he suffered greatly from  stereotyping by critics and reviewers, who.... nicknamed him the "Shogun of Sydenham" (Kazuo Ishiguro by Barry Lewis, Manchester University Press, 2000)

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