A Nobel-Prize-winning author has written a novel chosen as a Best Novel finalist – a notable and interesting intersection of two literary awards with quite different focuses.
Japanese-British author Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, writes mostly “mainstream” fiction that often conveys a wistful sense of loss and missed connections.
Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro’s latest novel about the ambiguous status of an intelligent and curious A.F. (Artificial Friend), was recently named by Libertarian Futurist Society judges as one of five 2022 Best Novel finalists.
When Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in 2017, the Swedish Academy hailed him as a writer “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.”
Among his novels: A Pale View of Hills (1982), An Artist of the Floating World (1986), The Unconsoled (1995), When We Were Orphans (2000), and The Buried Giant (2015.)
Ishiguro is best known for writing the novel The Remains of the Day, a 1989 Booker Prize-winner about a loyal British servant who too late in life struggles with missed opportunities, unrequited love and the problematic politics of his aristocratic employer, a German and Nazi sympathizer in England in the 1930s.
The novel was adapted into an Oscar-winning 1993 film directed by James Ivory and starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.
Ishiguro occasionally ventures into science fiction and dystopian fiction while infusing all of his writing in whatever genre with his distinctively poetic and lyrical imagination.
Klara and the Sun, told from the point of view of it’s A.I. title character as she is purchased from an A.I. store by an affluent U.S. family as a companion for their young daughter, isn’t Ishiguro’s first sf-tinged novel nor the first work in which he explores the potential humanity of unusual artificial or cloned characters.
Time magazine, for instance, named Ishiguro’s sf novel Never Let Me Go as the best novel of 2005 – and one of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005.
A dystopian sf novel set in an alternate-reality England of the 1990s, Never Let Me Go explores the poignant fate of young men and women raised unknowingly as clones. They eventually learn that their lives ultimately will be sacrificed, as their organs are harvested for transplanting into other humans.
The novel was adapted into a 2010 film starring Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan.
Like Never Let Me Go, Klara and the Sun is set in a speculative future in which the very sense of what it means to be human has shifted because of an advance in technology – with social and political implications that poignantly remain largely unexplored and unresolved.
Here is a capsule-review description of Klara and the Sun, prepared for the recent LFS press release announcing this year’s five Best Novel finalists:
• Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber and Faber) – Set in a near future when commercial development of A.I. robots make them affordable for affluent-family servants and companions, this poignant fable by the Japanese-British Nobel-Prize-winner subtly explores existential questions about self-awareness, intelligence, agency, servitude, foundations of liberty, and personhood.
Told through the limited, fallible eyes of its gentle title character, this story explores her childlike thirst to comprehend the world, conceiving a solar-energy-related proto-religion and embarking on a secretive quest to save her ailing girl charge.
Just as few people glimpse Klara’s awareness while virtually all remain blind to her potential personhood in a culture increasingly antagonistic to A.I.s, Ishiguro intentionally leaves readers with few clues about Klara’s true nature.
This hauntingly ambiguous meta-libertarian tragedy evokes the ancient tragedy of widespread slavery, once commonly accepted and only recently abolished via the universalizing liberal/libertarian commitment to dignity, self-ownership and freedom for all.
A historic note: Ishiguro is only the third Nobel Prize-winner for literature to be recognized by the Prometheus Awards in some way over its four-decade-plus history. Sinclair Lewis, a 1930 Nobel Prize recipient, was recognized with a Prometheus Award in 2007 when his anti-authoritarian and dystopian novel It Can’t Happen Here was inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, Rudyard Kipling, the 1907 Nobel Prize winner, often has been a Hall of Fame finalist for his story “As Easy as A.B.C.,” the second of his “airship utopia” stories envisioning a twenty-first century world founded on free travel, the rule of law, and an inherited abhorrence of crowds.
Note: This is part of a new series of Meet the Author posts about this year’s slate of Best Novel finalists.
Upcoming posts will focus on Karl K. Gallagher, author of the two 2022 finalists Between Home and Ruin and its sequel Seize What’s Held Dear; Wil McCarthy, author of Rich Man’s Sky; and Lionel Shriver, author of Should We Stay Or Should We Go.
* Prometheus winners: For a full list of winners – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.
* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.
* Read the introductory essay of the LFS’ 40th anniversary retrospective series of Appreciations of past Prometheus Awards winners, with an overview of the awards’ four-decade-plus history, that was launched in 2019 on the 40thanniversary of the awards and continues today.
* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.
Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital, and in some ways even more powerful than politics in the long run, by sparking innovation, better ideas, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights and differences.
Through recognizing the literature of liberty and the many different visions of a free future via the Prometheus Awards, the LFS hopes to help spread better visions of the future that help humanity achieve universal liberty and human rights and a better world (perhaps eventually, worlds) for all.