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Ransom Center to Acquire Archive of Kazuo Ishiguro

The Harry Ransom Centera humanities research library and museum at UT Austin, is acquiring the archive of award-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. 

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Kazuo Ishiguro's Dream Techniques page for

Kazuo Ishiguro’s Dream Techniques page for “The Unconsoled.” Image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center

AUSTIN, Texas — The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, is acquiring the archive of novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. 

Translated into more than 40 languages, Ishiguro’s fiction has received numerous awards, from the Booker Prize for Fiction for “The Remains of the Day” (1989) to the Whitbread Book of the Year award for “An Artist of the Floating World” (1986). On two occasions, Granta magazine included Ishiguro as one of the 20 “Best of Young British Novelists.”

Born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954, Ishiguro has lived in Britain since 1960. In 1982, he published his first novel, “A Pale View of Hills,” narrated by a Japanese widow living in England and drawing on the destruction and rehabilitation of Nagasaki. Other novels include “The Unconsoled” (1995), “When We Were Orphans” (2000), “Never Let Me Go” (2005) and, most recently, “The Buried Giant” (2015).

The archive provides a meticulous and dense record of Ishiguro’s writing projects, including his seven published novels. Known to work slowly, Ishiguro has kept his notes and multiple drafts of each work, amounting to thousands of preparatory notes and drafts for each of his novels.

“For many years, I’ve been in the habit of keeping a large cardboard box under my desk into which I throw, more or less indiscriminately, all papers produced during my writing that I don’t want to file neatly and take into the next stage of composition: earlier drafts of chapters, rejected pages, scraps of paper with scribbled thoughts, repeated attempts at the same paragraph, etc.,” said Ishiguro. “I’d originally started this box-under-the-desk system not because I’d anticipated one day preparing an archive, but because I was nervous I’d throw out work I’d need later.”

Kazuo Ishiguro's Dream Techniques page for

Kazuo Ishiguro’s explanatory comments for the Dream Techniques page for “The Unconsoled.” Image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center

Ishiguro spent months organizing the archive and making substantial explanatory comments, including a document he titled “HOW I WRITE,” which reveals his drafting process, and pagelong documents titled “ARCHIVE NOTES.” These notes elaborate on materials in the archive, ranging from Ishiguro’s one attempt to keep a diary to two early unpublished novels. Throughout the collection are yellow sticky notes attached to the front of materials or drafts, with Ishiguro’s own annotations, providing a deeply personal commentary.

“All archives are negotiations with the past, but rarely does one dramatize so fully the play of memory and its intimate ties to the novelist’s art,” said Ransom Center Director Steve Enniss.

Materials in the collection also include Ishiguro’s songwriting efforts and his first serious attempt at fiction, a pulp Western. In addition to writing fiction and short stories, Ishiguro collaborated with George Toles and Guy Maddin on the screenplay for “The Saddest Music in the World,” a melodrama set in the 1930s. He also wrote the screenplay for “The White Countess,” a Merchant Ivory film; and two original screenplays for Channel 4 Television, “A Profile of Arthur J. Mason” and “The Gourmet.”

Ishiguro’s archive will reside at the Ransom Center alongside the archives of Julian Barnes, Penelope Fitzgerald, Doris Lessing, Penelope Lively and Ian McEwan. 

Materials from the Ishiguro archive will be accessible once processed and cataloged. High-resolution press images are available.