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review 2017-02-24 05:07
The Buried Giant: Or the Cost of Forgetting (and Remembering)
The Buried Giant: A novel - Kazuo Ishiguro

The language in this book, especially the dialogue, is highly stylized. It brings to mind not only a different time, but a different type of form altogether - at times it feels like a play, or performative storytelling. There's a disjointed dreamlike quality to the story itself, and there is a great deal of repetition. The voice is also quite distanced. Add all that together and it reminded me a bit of Gaiman swirled together with a dose of Shakespeare.

 

There is a great deal of symbolism at work, as well as ample themes. It's a great book to dig into and analyze if that's your cup of tea. The characters feel more like archetypes than they do specific people, at least to me. The plot also takes on more of a secondary role in service to the feel of the story rather than the movement.

 

So you're probably thinking, sure, but did you like it? Was it effective? Should I read this? Well...I don't really know how to answer any of that. For all this book's distinct and unique flavor I'm not sure I particularly enjoyed reading it. It didn't hit any overtly sour notes, but it never really gave me much I connected with either. It was like a meditation in book form. If you enjoy books that are all about the atmosphere, tone, and prose, or if you like fables designed to make you think, then this will likely be a good fit for you. If you're looking for high fantasy, adventure, or characters that steal your heart this one will likely leave you cold. As for me I'm glad I read it, but after my other stabs at Ishiguro I think I'm going to skip the rest of his oeuvre.

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review 2016-09-11 07:49
Great theme diminished by poor presentation
The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro

 George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

 

Kazuo Ishiguro explores that notion in his novel The Buried Giant, set medieval Britain.

 

Axl and Beatrice are an elderly couple who decide, quite inexplicably, to visit their son who lives in a village a short, but dangerous journey away - they think.

 

The problem is everyone, the entire population, is suffering from loss of memory. They can hardly remember what transpired even a few weeks ago. Axl and Beatrice don't remember why their son left, exactly where the village he lives in is, or if they'll be welcomed when they arrive?

 

On their way they take up with a wandering Saxon warrior, Wistan, and also come across Sir Gawain, an aging knight who served King Arthur.

 

Glimpses of the past intrigue and befuddle all the characters. Have their paths crossed before? Were they friend or foe? And what has caused this loss of memory?

 

The story is sprinkled with myth and legend and a good thing because this reader had to apply magic to make sense of Ishiguro's plot.

 

At some point Beatrice becomes convinced that the pervasive memory loss is caused by the breath of the legendary dragon, Querig, who lives high in the mountains. And wouldn't you know it, Wistan is on a mission to kill that very same dragon.

 

Beatrice now decides her goal is to help dispatch the dragon first. Just how an aged woman in failing health can help is never explained. Once everyone's memory is restored she and Axl will then proceed to visit their son. Sir Gawain also joins in the quest to kill the dragon or so the reader is led to believe.

 

Ironically, most of the partial memories that continue to be evoked are far from pleasant - turmoil in relationships and war and slaughter of innocent women and children. Axl's worries what the future will hold if memories are restored.

 

Though the theme of the story is compelling this reader had to wonder why Ishiguro chose such a odd narrative vehicle to present it. The significance of whether knowing history, personal or societal, helps us avoid the same mistakes or encourages us to double-down on them was lost because the story was set in the distant past, muddled in myth and supernatural creatures, and burdened by the archaic dialogue style the author created.

 

 

 

 

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review 2016-08-07 00:52
'Til death us do part..........
The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro

This latest book by Kazuo Ishiguro has the feel of another experimental departure. There is no doubt the author is a gifted writer and yet in this sojourn into the genre of fantasy and legend, his mastery of language underpins another compelling novel. It has not always been the case (I disliked 'The Unconsoled' quite strongly), but in this book there seems to be a return to the sure-footed exploration of relationships and character development that resonated so memorably through "The Remains of the Day" and "Never Let Me Go".

In "The Buried Giant", set in post-Roman, post Authurian Britain, we follow the journey of elderly native couple, Axl and Beatrice, as they walk towards their son's village, some days away. Enter saxon warrior (Wiston) and later, aged nephew of King Arthur (Sir Gwawain), who befirend the couple on their travels, protect them through a series of diverting challenges and provide a welcome change of pace. Throughout the literal journey, Ishiguro also exposes gradually the challenges of a lifetime together, which have been overcome by the couple and the consequent strength of their relationship, weathered by such adversity. In that sense it is a very touching story of mature love and the complexity of of the human bond. No longer fueled by youthful passion perhaps, nonetheless, the poignant intimacy between Axl and Beatrice and their dogged loyalty to each other is inspiring and described with great empathy and skill.

Arguably, a philosophical theme of the book surrounds the role of memory as the mortar, which binds together the foundations of our shared experience and upon which our one-to-one and broader collective relationships are constructed. Moreover, the partial interpretation of memories can prove both a blessing and a curse, which potentially subvert our respective futures.

However, in a more prosaic reading, the inclusion of exciting swordplay, some wayward monks and a dragon, against a backdrop of ancient Britain and the plot woven by the author is simply an exceptionally crafted tale with a beauty in the writing, which will continue to live long in the memory.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1650662652
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review 2016-06-13 20:00
The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro
The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro

The Buried Giant, set in post-Roman Britain, is the story of an old married couple, Axl and Beatrice, who go on a journey to find their son. They think he lives in a village a couple of days' walk away. They're not sure, because the land is cloaked in a mist of forgetting: no-one seems to be able to remember anything beyond yesterday.

 

I suspect that it's something of a Marmite book: you either love it or dislike it. The prose is highly stylised, copying the stiltedness of medieval texts and older legends, but at least for me this didn't sap any of its emotion: I actually thought Ishiguro did a fantastic job of capturing how those texts can tell effective and meaningful stories without feeling entirely "real".

 

I also enjoyed how Ishiguro used the fantastical elements - dragons and boatmen and ogres and giants - at once metaphorical and real; again, it was a great display of how fantasy can reveal truths about love and history and war without needing to be strictly realistic.

 

Also, Arthurian elements! Arthurian stories are so interesting to me, and this one is no different - it calls back to everything we associate with Arthur, making a novel that's at once thoughtful and a great story.

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review 2016-04-18 09:43
The Buried Giant - Review
The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro

“Who knows what will come when quick-tongued men make ancient grievances rhyme with fresh desire for land and conquest?”

 

Recently, I attended an Author talk given by David Mitchell and Kazuo Ishiguro at the Southbank Center. I’ll admit that I had no idea who Ishiguro was. I was only there for Mitchell, who I adore as the author who opened my mind in my late teens. While I was there I got him to sign my battered old copies of ‘Number 9 Dream’, and ‘Cloud Atlas’ (AAAAH! :D).

 

They gave an informal talk, sitting side by side, playing clips from movies and talking about ghosts. Both are modern fiction writers who incorporate fantastical elements into their writing, yet both are wildly different in personality and approach to writing.

 

David Mitchell was the less charismatic of the two. He spent his childhood mostly without friends, heavily influenced by pop culture. As a general writing methodology, he comes up with a situation and characters, then writes his plot as he goes along, allowing the story to play out naturally until it reaches a conclusion.  

 

Kazuo Ishiguro on the other hand was the more confident of the pair. Well spoken and deliberate, he came across as the wise scholar to Mitchell’s fevered genius. Born in Japan, though with no hint of an accent, Ishiguro spent his childhood re-enacting Samurai movies with his friends. When he writes, he visualises an emotion, message or end point, and imagines the feeling he wants to leave his reader with. Then, methodically, he works in reverse to build his plot and characters up to this point.

 

Intrigued, I wanted to compare how these contrasting personalities would translate into each man’s writing. And so, I picked up Ishiguro’s latest, The Buried Giant.

 

Set in a magical Medieval England where trolls, dragons and other supernatural beasts still roam the land, Britons and Saxons share the country in uneasy peace. Though King Arthur may be long in his grave, his legacy still lies heavy upon the land. Our protagonists are Beatrice and Axl, an elderly couple who gradually become aware that a strange curse of forgetfulness lies upon the land. Upon realising that they have forgotten even the face of their own son, the two embark upon a journey to find his village.

 

At it’s face, The Buried Giant is a touching and personal tale that asks what it means to have abiding love. When two people have are together for a very long time, they build a lasting relationship on a foundation of shared experience. Once you remove this memory, what’s left?

 

“I'm wondering if without our memories, there's nothing for it but for our love to fade and die.”

 

The story of Axl and Beatrice is a personal one, but this narrative lies encompassed within a greater circle, one that raises discussion on collective social memory and cultural identity. What does it take to end a war when it asks that people must become neighbours with the ones who slaughtered their family? How can conditions for lasting peace ever arise after the bitterness of ongoing conflict? This idea is ever relevant in our world, resonating with the hatred we see bred through war that lasts for generations, such as with the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

 

“When it was too late for rescue, it was still early enough for revenge.”


Despite the setting, The Buried Giant is not a fantasy book, nor is it historical one. In many ways it’s a metaphorical setting crafted by Ishiguro to serve as a vessel to carry his message of memory, love and war. I thought it was succinct and cleverly written. Ishiguro wrote exactly as he said he would. The book finished on a note that drove home the themes running throughout the book in a meaningful way. It was not a cinematic exploration of myth and history, but rather a moving and thoughtful exploration of human psychology told through an abstract environment.

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