Ursula K. Le Guin slams new Kazuo Ishiguro novel

Ursula K. Le Guin has something to say about Kazuo Ishiguro.
(Benjamin Reed / For the Times)

Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel “The Buried Giant” has so far garnered mixed reactions from critics, with some praising the author for his foray into fantasy, and others finding the result “misbegotten.” In a blog post published yesterday, fantasy legend Ursula K. Le Guin left little doubt which side she was on.

The acidic post was a reaction to an interview Ishiguro gave to the New York Times in which the author rhetorically asked: “Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements?” The book includes a dragon, a mysterious boatman, an evil monk and Sir Gawain of Athurian legend. Ishiguro continued, “Are they going to say this is fantasy?”

Le Guin, who has been a champion of the fantasy genre for decades, was not amused. “Well, yes, they probably will. Why not?” she wrote. “It appears that the author takes the word for an insult. To me that is so insulting, it reflects such thoughtless prejudice, that I had to write this piece in response.”


While Le Guin clearly wasn’t thrilled with what she read as Ishiguro’s dismissal of fantasy, she had harsh words for “The Buried Giant” as well, which she called out for its “flat, dull” dialogue. “I found reading the book painful,” she wrote.

Le Guin reassured Ishiguro that he shouldn’t worry about how his book is classified. “... [S]ince he is a very famous novelist, I am sure reviewers who share his prejudice will never suggest that he has polluted his authorial gravitas with the childish whims of fantasy,” she wrote.

She might be wrong about that, though. “The Buried Giant,” which is released Tuesday, is currently the No. 3 bestseller on Amazon in the fantasy category.