Monday, December 4, 2017

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

It's post-Arthurian Britain and things are not going well.  Britons and Saxtons are vying to rule the land and there is an uneasy truce between the two factions.  Travelers must beware if they go beyond the confines of their own village as it is not easy to tell which group another traveler is from and whether they mean harm.

Yet travel is what the elderly couple Axl and Beatrice are determined to do.  They are not valued in their own village; in fact they are singled out for poor treatment.  They are not allowed even a candle at night to light their way in the communal dwellings.  They decide to go visit their son.

They set out and believe they know the way.  Yet they, like everyone else, can't really remember things.  Things that happened only the other day are lost in mist.  Even important things are difficult if not impossible to hold on to.  They really don't know exactly where their son is or why they haven't seen him in so long or if they quarreled.

As they travel, they meet others.  Some are monks who still offer hospitality to travelers.  They meet an old knight in rusty armor who claims to be Sir Gawain, friend of King Arthur and part of the Round Table.  He has outlived all his fellow knights of that time but continues to roam the countryside to do the things he believes Arthur taxed him with.  They meet a warrior from another part of the country who seems to have a secret mission and about whom dreadful stories are told of his fighting prowess.  They also meet a young boy who travels with them and the warrior as his village has thrust him out of its protection.  Together all these individuals grope their way towards their destiny through the blackness of their missing memories.  Will they be able to realize their goals?

Ishiguro is a celebrated novelist.  He won the Booker Prize in 1989 for The Remains Of The Day and this year (2017) he won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work.  He explores the effects of memory and forgetfulness as a major theme and how we relate to each other through our own understanding of the world we inhabit.   Readers will find these themes expressed in The Buried Giant and will finish the novel sure that they have been reading the work of a master.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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