Young authors are self-censoring to avoid online “anonymous lynch mob,” says Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro

Young authors are self-censoring to avoid online “anonymous lynch mob,” says Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
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Nobel Prize winner Sir Kazuo Ishiguro is warning that a “climate of fear” is forcing many young authors to self-censor their work, out of fear of being canceled. 

Ishiguro, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2017, says that authors may be concerned that an "anonymous lynch mob will turn up online and make their lives a misery." Speaking to the BBC, Ishiguro said that he fears for the younger generation of writers.

The renowned author expressed his concern that less-established writers are self-censoring by avoiding writing about certain topics or viewpoints, or even including characters outside of their immediate experiences in their work.

In recent years, several young adult fiction authors have been forced to cancel their forthcoming books after being attacked on social media for including characters who did not share the author’s own lived experiences. In 2019, author Amélie Wen Zhao canceled her book Blood Heir after she was criticized for the book’s depiction of slavery. The book was a retelling of the Anastasia story involving “a princess hiding a dark secret and the conman she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder.” Critics who got their hands on the book accused the author of “anti-Blackness” after the death of a particular black character in the book. 

Other authors have faced backlash for similar issues, including Jeanine Cummins, whose depiction of the migrant experience in her novel American Dirt was heavily criticized.

"I think that is a dangerous state of affairs," said Ishiguro, who is known for books including The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go.

Speaking to the BBC, Ishiguro said that he was troubled about young writers "who rightly perhaps feel that their careers are more fragile, their reputations are more fragile and they don't want to take risks." 

Ishiguro’s comments follow an ongoing debate on freedom of expression and cancel culture, in which several high profile authors, including J.K. Rowling, Julie Burchill, Jordan Peterson and others have come under fire for opinions posted on social media. 

"Novelists should feel free to write from whichever viewpoint they wish or represent all kinds of views," he said, noting that he wrote from the viewpoint of a woman in his first novel.

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