Japan-born British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro warned of the dangers of an increasingly divided world and called on literature to help "break down barriers" during his Nobel lecture Thursday at the Swedish Academy.
Referencing "enormous inequalities" of wealth and opportunity, increasing racism and the proliferation of "tribal nationalisms," Ishiguro admitted that "the unstoppable advance of liberal-humanist values I'd taken for granted since childhood may have been an illusion."
Nonetheless, he pointed to the 20th century's rebukes of totalitarianism and other forms of oppression, and asserted with cautious optimism that "literature is important, and will be particularly so as we cross this difficult terrain."
"In a time of dangerously increasing division, we must listen," he noted. "Good writing and good reading will break down barriers."
Ishiguro, 63, who was born in Nagasaki, also addressed the role of Japan in his memory and imagination during his formative years as a writer.
Having moved to Britain with his family when he was 5, Ishiguro experienced a middle-class English upbringing while also having access to Japan through relatives and his own "surprisingly vast and clear" early memories of his native country.
"As I was growing up, long before I'd ever thought to create fictional worlds in prose, I was busily constructing in my mind a richly detailed place called 'Japan'," he said.
"The fact that I'd never physically returned to Japan during that time only served to make my own vision of the country more vivid and personal."
Ishiguro's first attempts to write about Japan developed into his 1982 debut novel "A Pale View of Hills," which depicted a woman from Nagasaki reflecting on her life and the aftermath of the city's atomic bombing.
He followed the effort with "An Artist of the Floating World" in 1986, narrated by an aging Japanese painter taking stock of his life and career a few years after the end of the war.
The theme of personal and collective memory in relation to world events has been a staple of the author's eight books.
"Does a nation remember and forget in much the same way as an individual does? Or are there important differences?" he reflected during the lecture.
Ishiguro became the third Japanese-born writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature -- following Yasunari Kawabata in 1968 and Kenzaburo Oe in 1994 -- when the academy selected him in October for his "novels of great emotional force."
His latest novel, "The Buried Giant," was published in 2015.