A collection of lyrics written by the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro for the American jazz singer Stacey Kent is due to be published next year.
“I’ve built a reputation over the years as a writer of stories, but I started out writing songs,” said Ishiguro, the Booker and Nobel prize-winning author of eight novels including Never Let Me Go, The Remains of the Day and Klara and the Sun.
The Summer We Crossed Europe in the Rain: Lyrics for Stacey Kent will be published on 7 March 2024 by Faber, featuring 16 sets of lyrics alongside specially commissioned illustrations by Italian artist Bianca Bagnarelli and an introduction by Ishiguro.
Kent and Ishiguro met after the novelist picked one of the singer’s tracks, her recording of They Can’t Take That Away from Me, as part of his BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs interview in 2002. Kent had read two of Ishiguro’s novels and was a “huge fan”, so she wrote him a thank you note. The pair’s correspondence eventually led to Ishiguro writing lyrics for Kent’s 2007 Grammy-nominated album Breakfast on the Morning Tram.
Ishiguro continued writing lyrics for Kent – the new collection features those written since 2007. “One of the key things I learnt writing lyrics – and this had an enormous influence on my fiction – was that with an intimate, confiding, first-person song, the meaning must not be self-sufficient on the page,” the novelist told the Guardian in 2015. “It has to be oblique, sometimes you have to read between the lines.”
Faber publishing director Angus Cargill said the collection is “a fascinating companion piece to Ishiguro’s fiction. A lyric collection that explores many of his characteristic themes – memory, love, travel, the visual and haunting qualities of music – and affords new insights into writing and artistic collaboration through Ishiguro’s intimate introduction and the exquisite illustrations from Bianca Bagnarelli.”
Ishiguro considered himself a singer-songwriter in his youth, but when studying creative writing at the University of East Anglia in 1980 he thought that he had to choose between novel writing and songwriting. “I used to see myself as some sort of musician type, but there came a point when I thought: ‘Actually this isn’t me at all. I’m much less glamorous. I’m one of these people with corduroy jackets with elbow patches.’ It was a real comedown.”