Klara and the Sun

by

Kazuo Ishiguro

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Klara and the Sun Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Kazuo Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Japan but moved to England as a child and did not return to his home country for 30 years. In spite of this, his first two novels (A Pale View of the Hills and An Artist of the Floating World) are set in Japan—Ishiguro drew on the experiences of his Japanese-speaking parents but has claimed to be more inspired by British and European authors such as Marcel Proust (In Search of Lost Time). In 1986, Ishiguro met his future wife, Lorna MacDougall, while working at a homelessness charity, and the two have lived together in London ever since. Though Ishiguro’s earliest novels were well reviewed, it’s arguable that his breakthrough was The Remains of The Day (1989), which follows a road trip by an English butler in the aftermath of World War II and was later adapted into a film. Ishiguro is known for writing in many different genres: perhaps his best-known novel today is the science fiction story Never Let Me Go (2005), but he has also written in the mystery genre (When We Were Orphans, 2000) and fantasy (The Buried Giant, 2015). In 2017, Kazuo Ishiguro received the Nobel Prize for literature. Klara and the Sun (2021) was Ishiguro’s first novel since winning the award.
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Historical Context of Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun was published in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted life around the world, starting particularly in early 2020. The isolation of many of the characters in Klara and the Sun, especially the way that Josie gets her education almost exclusively from tutors in remote locations, reflects the quarantine conditions of the pandemic, even though the novel itself isn’t set during a pandemic. Klara and the Sun is also a satire of the contemporary college admissions process. It imagines a future where colleges will only accept students who have been “lifted” (meaning they have undergone a dangerous medical procedure that will, allegedly, make them smarter), which is meant to be a parody of all the tests, applications, and other requirements students must meet in order to be accepted for college in the 21st century.

Other Books Related to Klara and the Sun

Kazuo Ishiguro has claimed that his novels are often variations on the same themes. Klara and the Sun is perhaps most similar to Never Let Me Go (2005), Ishiguro’s other science fiction novel. Never Let Me Go is not about robots, but it involves humans who only live for the benefit of other more-privileged humans, and so their status is very similar to Klara’s. Ishiguro has also cited the influence of Fyodor Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment) and Marcel Proust (In Search of Lost Time) on his own books. Some literary critics compared Klara and the Sun to the android love story Machines Like Me (2019), a novel by Ian McEwan, another famous British novelist of the 20th and 21st century.
Key Facts about Klara and the Sun
  • Full Title: Klara and the Sun
  • When Written: Between 2015 and 2021
  • Where Written: London, England
  • When Published: March 5, 2021
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Setting: An unspecified part of the future United States
  • Climax: The Sun seems to cure Josie of her illness.
  • Antagonist: Josie’s chronic illness
  • Point of View: First Person

Extra Credit for Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Son. After winning the Nobel Prize, the first person Kazuo Ishiguro called was his mother, who was 91 at the time.

Another Side of Kazuo Ishiguro. Ishiguro is a noted music fan, particularly of Bob Dylan and of jazz music. He has said that his “desert island disc” would be a rendition of the jazz standard “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” by Stacey Kent.