How Kazuo Ishiguro wrote The Remains of the Day in four weeks.
For the release of his recent book of fantasy, The Buried Giant, Ishiguro, your new Nobel Laureate in Literature, looked back and explained to the Guardian how he basically wrote his classic novel The Remains of the Day in four weeks.
I would, for a four-week period, ruthlessly clear my diary and go on what we somewhat mysteriously called a “Crash”. During the Crash, I would do nothing but write from 9am to 10.30pm, Monday through Saturday. I’d get one hour off for lunch and two for dinner. I’d not see, let alone answer, any mail, and would not go near the phone. No one would come to the house.
On my first Sunday off I ventured outdoors, on to Sydenham high street, and persistently giggled – so Lorna told me – at the fact that the street was built on a slope, so that people coming down it were stumbling over themselves, while those going up were panting and staggering effortfully. Lorna was concerned I had another three weeks of this to go, but I explained I was very well, and that the first week had been a success.
I kept it up for the four weeks, and at the end of it I had more or less the entire novel down: though of course a lot more time would be required to write it all up properly, the vital imaginative breakthroughs had all come during the Crash.
And then along comes Tom Waits.
I thought I’d finished Remains, but then one evening heard Tom Waits singing his song “Ruby’s Arms”... And there comes a moment, when the singer declares his heart is breaking, that’s almost unbearably moving because of the tension between the sentiment itself and the huge resistance that’s obviously been overcome to utter it. Waits sings the line with cathartic magnificence, and you feel a lifetime of tough-guy stoicism crumbling in the face of overwhelming sadness. I heard this and reversed a decision I’d made, that Stevens would remain emotionally buttoned up right to the bitter end. I decided that at just one point – which I’d have to choose very carefully – his rigid defence would crack, and a hitherto concealed tragic romanticism would be glimpsed.