http://www.wsj.com/articles/kazuo-ishig ... 1429022730
Kazuo Ishiguro, 60, is author of eight novels, including his latest, “The Buried Giant” (Knopf). He spoke with Marc Myers.
When I was writing my third novel, “The Remains of the Day,” in 1988, a friend insisted I buy Leonard Cohen’s new album, “I’m Your Man.” So I did, and when I put it on in my living room in London, I was blown away by “I Can’t Forget.”
The song was unusual for Cohen. I had been a fan for some time, and his songs usually had a melancholy Euro-Canadian perspective. Here, the song was peculiarly American, with a pedal steel guitar and landscape imagery straight out of a Sam Shepard movie. What struck me most, though, was the chorus line—“I can’t forget but I don’t remember what.”
In the song, Cohen’s obviously haunted by some significant memory or personal loss and struggling to recall it. The concept was beautiful, but I didn’t quite understand the meaning at first. The song began to make sense after I listened to it a few times. Cohen wasn’t that old then—he was in his mid-50s—so the song wasn’t about frustration over senility. Instead, he seeed to have something important buried deep in his memory, but looking back made the recollection fleeting.
Another great line in the song does something that Bob Dylan does often and well. At first, Cohen appears to be delivering a cliché, which makes you wonder why he’s being so obvious. But then his follow-up line twists it around: “The summer’s almost gone / The winter’s tuning up / Yeah, the summer’s gone / But a lot goes on forever.” The song also hits me personally. All through my life, I’ve been thinking back on my early childhood in Japan. My family left for London in 1960, when I was 5, and I’ve always felt there was something back there that I had to remember, something important. It’s not a specific fact or memory that would help me in any practical sense, just the notion that I must not forget the world where I came from and my state of being.
This sense, that there’s something critical I must not forget, resonates with me. My early childhood is part of my history and who I am, but I’m not sure what exactly I must remember. I often fear that this part of my past is slipping away.