The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro is a famous and acclaimed author who, for some reason, I haven’t read before. Due to that circumstance, I had no idea what to expect from thie mysterious fantasy.
Set in a fictional England after the death of King Arthur, the rural land is inhabited by farmers and knights and monks and all manner of magical animals and events. The story is about memory and the loss of memory, and what that means for life, love, identity, and humanity.
The countryside is under the influence of a mysterious mist that erases human memories in a rather confusing and inconsistent way. Ishiguro works through the effects as people cannot remember their own lives, and sometimes not even the purpose of their current actions. And how can we tell truth from lies, without proper memory?
I must say that it is all very confusing (as it is intended to be), which makes the story hard to follow. Ishaguro adds to the uncertainties of memory with some deft writing, using flashbacks and multiple views to pop back and forward in time. But most of the story is carried by rather complicated dialog, capturing the difficulty of understanding each other, even in the absence of magical amnesia.
One of the consequences of the memory loss is, I think, the people rely too much on imagination to construe their own actions and the events around them. Ishaguro repeatedly presents objects and events that are viewed as ominous, or maybe ordinary, the people go back and forth with each other and even in their own minds.
Who is who, and what is everyone up to? Who is honest and who is lyying? And what is the secret of the mist? What will happen if and when it is removed, and normal memory returns?
It’s all very strange. I would hate it—I don’t really like incomprehensible magical mysteries—but the writing is superb. It’s worth reading just to admire the smooth, lovely way he gets us into this very odd mood and attitude, that anything is possible, senses are not to be trusted, understanding is very iffy. And all due to a lack of remembrance.
Interesting and beautiful and kind of sad.
- Ishiguro, Kasuo, The Buried Giant, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.
Sunday Book Reviews