(Sidharth Vardhan’s review of
‘The Buried Giant’ a novel by
2017 Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguru (1954-)
The novel first published in 2015
Review first written on January 11, 2020
(4 / 5))
“But then again I wonder if what we feel in our hearts today isn’t like these raindrops still falling on us from the soaked leaves above, even though the sky itself long stopped raining. I’m wondering if without our memories, there’s nothing for it but for our love to fade and die.”Kazuo Ishiguru
In as far as the great aim of impressing me is concerned – the one aim that all books should strive for IMO, Ishiguru started with a bad foot – I am not much interested in the fantasy genre, even though I liked watching the game of thrones I can’t imagine reading and enjoying the book. Buried giant shares much with the Game of thrones at superficial levels – the ancient Europe setting, the knights, the dragons. There is a lot of violence too but most of that occurs in the background for Buried Giant. Ishiguru’s work is of course more of a united entity and with lesser twists and turns made in order to shock, Ishiguru obviously doesn’t give cool one-liners to his characters like Martin which is second best thing about Game of Thrones (you will in a moment guess the best thing) … and unfortunately without any naked ladies whatsoever.
Yet despite its fantasy motifs, its themes are literary – memory and trauma. And in here Ishiguru plays those themes at levels of collective unconsciousness, a level in writing about which very few authors impress me. How do we deal with hurts done to us by those we are forced to live with? Must we revenge ourselves but revenge will, in its turn, attract revenge. Or shall we forgive? The question then arises if such forgiveness won’t be an injustice to victims. Particularly, when victims still live memories of trauma suffered. So, if we are to avoid violence at all costs, the only way is to forget the traumatic experience itself.
These questions can be raised on a number of socio-political themes. Racism, the slave trade (Wole Soyinka wrote essays on forgetting and forgiveness in those contexts), imperial history, the memory of wars, etc. The hatemongers are able to use those traumatic memories to raise themselves to power. Hitler did that. Likes of Trump and Modi have done so in recent times.
“Who knows what will come when quick-tongued men make ancient grievances rhyme with fresh desire for land and conquest?”Kazuo Ishiguru
There is also a theme of how forgetting and remembering affect love that I won’t talk about. It seems to be an exploration that somehow demands simple characters which can make the book boring at times. Perhaps the only time I could say about Ishiguru, but I would have preferred it to be shorter. Though all his books have a tendency of being elusive with what they explore, I particularly won’t recommend this one to be your first Ishiguru.
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Copyright – Sidharth Vardhan