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The British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature on Thursday, in recognition of a body of work that has spanned multiple genres. The breadth of his work is illustrated in the difference of two of his best known novels, 1989’s “The Remains of the Day” and 2005’s “Never Let Me Go,” which were both adapted into movies. Ishiguro also wrote the screenplay to 2005’s “The White Countess.”
Directed by James Ivory from a screenplay credited to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the 1993 adaptation of “Remains of the Day” was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best picture, best director and best adapted screenplay. Both lead actors, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, were nominated as well.
It was perhaps fitting that Ishiguro’s story of a butler coming to question his years of dedicated service be adapted into a film, for as Ishiguro stated in a 2014 article in the Guardian, the main character of Stevens the butler had some inspiration from Gene Hackman’s character in Francis Ford Coppola's “The Conversation.”
In her original 1989 review of the novel for The Times, Patricia Highsmith noted, “The author's subtlety and coolness are fascinating. … The humor is sly, unwitting, and charged with social comment,” all elements that would later come through in Ivory and Jhabvala’s adaptation of the story to the screen.
“Never Let Me Go” was adapted to the screen in 2010, directed by Mark Romanek from a screenplay by Alex Garland and starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield. The film’s tale of a dystopian love triangle in a slightly altered universe received largely positive reviews but failed to catch on with audiences at the time.
In his review of the movie, Kenneth Turan noted “it's the power of Ishiguro's original conception that finally holds us, a view of life from the other side of the looking glass that comments powerfully on our situation as well.”