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Kazuo Ishiguro: cancel culture is holding back a young generation of writers

Anita Singh
·2-min read
Kazuo Ishiguro - Alastair Grant/AP
Kazuo Ishiguro - Alastair Grant/AP

Young writers are self-censoring their work because they fear being ‘cancelled’ by an online lynch mob, Sir Kazuo Ishiguro has said.

The Nobel Prize-winning author said a “climate of fear” was preventing some novelists from writing the books they wanted to write.

“I think I’m in a privileged and relatively protected position because I’m a very established author and I’m the age I am. I have a reputation. Perhaps it’s an illusion but I think I’m protected,” Sir Kazuo said.

“I very much fear for the younger generation of writers and what I’m concerned about is that there [is] self-censorship going on and that they would not produce the works that they really want to produce, or that they would have produced and that we would really value, because there is a fear that they’re going to get trolled or they’re going to get cancelled or there’s going to be some sort of anonymous lynch mob that will turn up online and make their lives a misery,” he told the BBC.

The author won the Booker Prize in 1989 with The Remains of the Day and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017.

His comments about ‘cancel culture’ were made in response to a question about freedom of speech disputes and publishers dropping authors. JK Rowling has been at the centre of controversy over her views on trans rights, with calls for her books to be blacklisted and fellow authors quitting her literary agency. Julie Burchill’s forthcoming book was dropped by her publisher after she made comments on Twitter about Islam that “crossed a line with regard to race and religion”.

Sir Kazuo also weighed in on the subject of whether or not male writers could write from a female viewpoint.

“Novelists should feel free to write from whichever viewpoint they wish, or represent all kinds of views,” he said. “Right from an early age I’ve written from the point of view of people very different from myself. My first novel [A Pale View of Hills] was written from the point of view of a woman.” But he added: “I think there are very valid parts of this argument about appropriation of voice, we do have the obligation to teach ourselves and to do research and to treat people with respect if we’re going to have them feature in our work.”