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Friday, October 9, 2015

Reflections on Ishiguro's The Buried Giant

I don't know that I ever read a story written in such simple form that could cover so many themes, and speak to me so intimately in my present state. This is a modern fable unlike anything you'd find on the shelves of contemporary book stalls. From the start, we meet our protagonists,Axl and Beatrice, an old man and his old wife, as he awakes on a cold foggy morning, bothered by some distant thought or another, lovingly moving about not wanting to disturb his sleeping wife. This will be their story, a quest to find a solution to their present situation where they are away from family, relegated to live in the dark at the end of a long warren without heat, to search for a son they have not seen in years, along memory's trails to find whom and what they have forgotten from their youth, each element of their lives lived together slowly becoming clear to themselves, and to the reader.

The setting is England after the Romans have left, and after the conquests of KingArthur and his Knights of Camelot. As our protagonists travel the land in search of their lost son, they encounter various characters, some amicable, some unpredictable, as cultural consequences of both the Roman conquests and the Arthurian wars that aimed to bring various factions, Britons and Saxons, warriors and clerics, myths and realities, under a common flag.

These are parallel journeys of remembrance, the personal story for each of the character, each on a quest to perfect or pursue his/her aim in life, to lift the fog of forgetfulness, to see the land and its inhabitants in a clear light, to right the wrong according to personal code, regardless of personal consequences. Each encounter reveals the status of institutions, and the connections each character has had to the same. These understandings reveal the ultimate dilemma: to remember is both a way to be cleansed of the fog, revel in the joy of lost memories, and a way to be hurt again, as the hurts that have been buried deep in one's psyche, deeply concealed, the way the buried giant conceals all the bones of those who were atrociously cut down in their prime because of King Arthur and his knights' crusades or some other national atrocity committed for a cause that was sold as good for all.

What an apt bedtime story of us old folks.

7 comments:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Rosaria - thanks for highlighting this book for us. It sounds a very thought-provoking read ... interesting ... cheers Hilary

#1Nana said...

I've never read it, but it might be too heavy for my present state of mind. Coming off the joy of our writing retreat, I want to stay on the sunny side of life for a bit!

the walking man said...

Sounds to me like a bit of Don Quixote mixed with War and Peace. I think I will look for this book.

Shadow said...

Indeed, memories have a double-sided edge... I agree, a good bedtime story.

Tom Sightings said...

Sounds very mysterious and very intense. I'll have to put it on my reading list. Thanks for the recommendation!

Paul Costopoulos said...

Friday last, I was at a friend's lecture cum book launching. She has written some memories of her's under the title "Dipped in stardust". She said that writing memoirs was fun "because mainly the good things come to fore".
About sleeping giants, just of the shore, in Thunderbay, Ontario, on lake Superior there is an rocky island that has the shape of a reclining man. The Ojibways call it "The sleeping Giant".

Maggie May said...

Not read that one but have come across other books of his!
Must look out for it.
Maggie x