Kazuo Ishiguro on "Prayers for the Stolen"

Listen nowDownload file
Embed player

British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro is the 2017 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel committee recognized Ishiguro as an author "who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world." Those novels include, most recently, "The Buried Giant," as well as the widely-praised novels "The Remains Of The Day" and "Never Let Me Go." In this Bookmark, he recommends Jennifer Clement's novel about teenage girls surviving the violence of cartel-controlled Mexican border villages in "Prayers for the Stolen."

I'm here to talk about a book I feel, although it's had some acclaim, it needs to have a lot more acclaim. And I've chosen that book by Jennifer Clement and it's called "Prayers For The Stolen." This is a story set today in Mexico, near the American border, and it's about young kids —teenagers, teenage girls mainly — growing up in that stretch along the border that's completely run by the drug cartels.

So for them it's just normal that these drug cartels create this kind of horrific environment. They're used to the idea that if they see SUVs driving towards their village across the desert, they have to all run and hide in these ready made burrows because drug gangs readily come into the villages, just kidnap the prettier girls — even if they're like nine, 10, 11 — and take them away to use as prostitutes.

Horrendous things happen, but they just play in these little villages. To them this is kind of normal. It's normal that their older brothers work for drug gangs. Sometimes it's considered to be kind of glamorous.

You know the sadness the tragedy of that kind of young children's view of the world, their natural tendency to see the world around them as benevolent, clashing with such a terrifically cynical and vicious and violent world. It's actually before anything else it is kind of very moving, because you feel that this is something that probably occurred over and over again in different historical contexts. But the fact that you feel this is something that's happening right now as well, that this isn't some sort of myth but is something happening right now — on the border of two pretty sophisticated countries — it kind of makes you angry as well.

You might draw parallels with other books like "To Kill A Mockingbird" or whatever. The situations where the innocence of the child's eye looks at outrageous things that are allowed to go on. It's a terrifying picture, but it's I think it's an important book. I think it's brilliantly written. It's very moving.

It's been acclaimed by a lot of critics, but it's not a book that people talked about very much, so I think it needs to be better known. I think it's a considerable book.