19 thoughts on “The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. Pages 3 – 8
    There is something constructively disarming about a novel with real human beings in our historical past now ancient to us, without our modern concerns and implements, especially when their own past, even a short-term past, usually vanishes into a mist behind them, like the mist that surrounds their basic, mainly open-plan, abodes.

  2. Pages 8 – 28
    There is something beautifully but disturbingly striking about this book. It as if my conceit – the one in ‘Nemonymous Night’ where the characters have their ignition and initial development of self-identity and relationship as babies and infants slowed down and stretched onward into their adult lives – crystallised by a recognisable period in our ancient history, a period which we can recognise or accept as what it was like then.
    Axl and Beatrice struggle to crystallise themselves against an ever-vanishing backstory as they try to reverse the initial Alzheimers state of existence that starts for all these people from birth. It is absolutely poignant and believable. I suspect, already, that this is a major novel crystallising, too, before my very eyes; I must take it slowly, for obvious reasons. I shall leave this section of the text while wondering what did these people do in the dark at night without candles, as some of them, like Axl and Beatrice, were deprived of candles if they couldn’t prove they could handle a candle.

  3. Pages 28 – 47
    “Sometimes I feel we must have been together since we were babies.”

    Haunting as well obsessively rhapsodic, we follow the lines of text as it reflects the journey of ancient and elderly Britons, Axl and Beatrice, their old beliefs ever emerging as new beliefs, and the almost fable-like atmosphere of their meeting with the boatman and old woman (and her rabbit) in a derelict Roman villa while sheltering from a storm in the wild featureless landscape, no routes, no hedgerows. I hope they recognise their son when they reach what they remember, perhaps wrongly, to be his village. I do not intend in future to continue itemising the plot, but describe my reaction to larger swathes of its text. I am convinced this is going to be a major reading experience in my life, like this author’s ‘Unconsoled’ once was for me many years go.
    (The boatman’s tale of taking people on his ferry to an island where you can only be in solitude, unless he can take a couple whose bond he can check as good enough for staying together there, uncannily reminds me of those taking turn to enter the Core in ‘Nemonymous Night’).

  4. Pages 47 – 70
    Forgetting for a moment the purpose of the couple’s journey, their undying dying love for each other, their doubts of one another and of others, their stay-over in a Saxon village, the methodical actions they witness there in night’s increasing darkness (methodical actions hinting at unmethodical furies and dangers felt within), the bodily ill that travels with at least one of the couple, the talk of ogres and she-dragons, the ‘mist’, and more things. Forgetting for a moment all those things, one must not forget that the only way to read this book is by means of an accompanying public real-time review of it like this one, for obvious reasons. Reader, not Author, as the book’s God?

  5. Pages 70 – 90
    Saxons are apparently more superstitious than Britons. And our couple (Axl touchingly calling Beatrice by the pet name of ‘princess’), as they travel toward what they recall as their son’s village, are faced with taking on a new responsibility – a boy called Edwin who seems in danger from such superstition. I am hypnotised by this text, gentle but passionately simmering with a distant, easily transgressed reality that doesn’t touch the sides of the mind.
    Meanwhile, I was intrigued to wonder why these peoples have not also forgotten that there are things to forget. The book is silent on this point, not even posing the question let alone answering it.

  6. Pages 90 – 135
    I think I know what is happening, at least as long as I remember it happening. Methodical, almost Quixotic, interactions, like a stylised dance of tactics, as Axl and Beatrice travel through unspoilt woodland with Edwin and an assumed Warrior friend, then meeting an Arthurian knight in a clearing. Interactions with a conspiracy of others who seem not to understand their own conspiracy. Swordfight, and talk of a she-dragon and of King Arthur himself, none of which may actually exist or have existed even though they are believed to exist or have existed. This belief by the characters is not fantasy within the context of the time in which they live. It is only if the reader believes or disbelieves it that makes it fantasy or not. There is a controversy going on today outside of this book about this book, some claiming it is fantasy, others that it is not fantasy, many making value judgements on whether it is or is not fantasy or whether fantasy itself has any value. Such a controversy seems to suit the book about which it is controversial, another Quixotic dance of tactics? The Intentional Fallacy holds me steady, at least. Irrespective, this continues to be a compelling read.

  7. Pages 139 – 162
    There is some mnemonic traction with this hardback book’s words and pages that I can’t imagine working in the vague glissando of an ebook format. The methodical turning of the manoeuvres of character interchange and implication, as our party now reaches the halfway house of a welcoming, but uneasy, monastery, double gates with historic slaughter-grounds between, traps & turnings, potential sideways falls, promised interviews with the Abbot if not interrupted by other mysterious guests….And the discovery, for the second time in this book, I now only vaguely recall, of a cage with wide enough bars to allow the prodding in of beaks to attack whoever is placed within it…
    It’s as if the lines of text themselves are wide enough, too, for infiltrations…

  8. Pages 162 – 172
    “Yes, she had said, she had noticed blood in her urine, but he had smiled and asked something else.”
    Ironically for me today, as some of my friends may understand, this section is about examination of bodily troubles and their diagnoses. And Axl’s sense of fully absorbing reality but not fully understanding it as if it’s a dream which is a suitable sense of how I have felt today, at times. A ‘dream sickness’ that has been much on mind in recent on-line book commentating, Also a section that continues earlier teetering recognitions on the brink of non-recognition between people and a cruel penance that these Ancient Christian monks wreak by means of those erstwhile cages. And an easy belief that forgetting is due to a myth’s breathing,,, Not fantasy as such, but real people fantasising?

  9. Pages 173 – 197
    I continue my needed aide memoire…
    Axl, Beatrice and boy Edwin ‘escape’ the monastery’s monks ‘helped’ by those very monks into a secret exit tunnel of darkness wherein they trigger a portcullised trap similar to the erstwhile gated traps in the monastery itself, and then they find themselves following, unbeknownst, someone leading them, viz that Quixotic knight who, as if in some clumsy Alice in Wonderland scenario, helps them ‘escape’ a fantastic ‘beast’ that seems to shed its still living head, not fantastic as such but explicitly formed by ‘wild imaginings’ in the darkness, leaving them to walk upon a carpet of human babies’ skulls…a metaphor, if they are real skulls, for what I mentioned earlier as to the nature of humanity’s eternal babyhood or ‘mistical’ development in this historical era, a development from which a baby in our own world today eventually becomes a self-identified self while still in its infancy.

  10. Pages 198 – 217
    Edwin — at times in front and behind the core linear flow of Axl and Beatrice’s rite of passage towards their almost forgotten son’s village — is shown a defensive moat within a tower instead of outside it. That is a metaphor for this book itself.
    I will not record here anything else of what happened in this section as an experiment to see if I can remember what happened in it later. The reader now Quixotic.

  11. Pages 221 – 234
    Quixotic Knight’s First Reverie, it seems, like St George seeking his imaginary Dragon to fight it for real, a reverie that is not a series of dreams so much as a monologue, involving his past with women, women now caught up with him and become older, widowed and no doubt she-dragonish, and involving the Saxon wars, with Axl’s past now presumably forgotten by Axl as actual part of this Reverie’s past.
    Quixotic Knight seeking his own Query to bring back all the answers as a single answer to another Query from the mist of time?

  12. Pages 235 – 255
    “I don’t know if it’s a thing dreamt or remembered.”
    There are two parties, now, the Warrior and Edwin seeking the mist’s Query or the Query’s mist, as I call them, while the old couple, Beatrice and Axl, still seek their son’s village. I wonder if the past is left blank, implanted memories fill it with fantasy or truth? The two baskets tethered together down the river as a mode of transport seem to symbolise this very Query and the couple’s poignant outcome and meeting of the rabbit woman again, amid a memorably written plague of pixies, represent a temptation toward healing by separation. Fantasy or Filling? Do we all fill our respective pasts with false memories as preferable to blankness? This novel uniquely makes us question this. Is this whole book a false memory. At least, I have the hardback.

  13. Pages 256 – 271
    “Our life together’s like a tale with a happy ending, no matter what turns it took on the way.”
    A rope to hold back, for the warrior upon Edwin, as one search party, Edwin who has forgotten why he has deceived the other on the whereabouts of the Query let alone its Answer. Another rope for Axl and Beatrice, as another search party for the Query, while a goat, of all creatures, leads them towards it. [This reminds me of the two separate search parties in ‘Nemonymous Night’ converging or hawling upon the Core… Querig or Core either as retrocausal goal as goat or as the end justifying the means of memory as lack of memory? In ‘Ladies’, to get the goat was to get Alzheimers.]

  14. Pages 271 – 287
    “Is there some great secret known only to dying men?”
    It’s as if those pixies brought back false memories with them, Axl claims (not realising that the actual pixies were false memories of themselves?), a false memory that he had once betrayed Beatrice, who wants now to walk a few paces apart from him, till she, too, forgets her own recrimination. This is the most poignant scene in all literature, I claim, as based on my memory of what literature I have read throughout a lifetime. They bravely, instead, take the children’s poison-primed goat toward the hungry she-dragon’s lair… watched incredulously by another reverie of the clumsily tutelary Quixotic knight from King Arthur and Merlin’s memory days.
    “For what good’s a memory’s returning from the mist if it’s only to push away another.”

  15. Pages 291 – 316
    I leave off reading this book briefly on its cusp of resolution (or so I infer). Nothing more tantalising in knowing this – but also knowing it may all have changed by the time I return to it. I have often speculated in my real-time reviews that the text actually changes from one reading of it to the next, what you have already read and what you haven’t yet read. A fantasy of mine just like this book’s fantasy of Querig.
    I understand the duel between ends and means, whether memory is a good or bad thing, and the historic dichotomy that page 316’s cusp implies between the Saxon warrior and the Quixotic knight of Arthur and Merlin. All over a sadly coiled worm in a pit, or so I imagine or remember?
    The background of the poignant old couple, the rope tethered poisoned goat of Alzheimer, the rope tethered boy with poisoned bite as bait all add weight to the immensity of this cusp. Knots or ligotti in a rope have been a symbol for me of noose or simple death that we all face, a condition I have no doubt approached closer by another cusp of circumstances, that many of my friends know about, even while I have been reading this actual remarkable book!

  16. giantPages 316 – 345
    The outcome comes out, an outcome about which there can be no reviewer’s ‘plot spoiler’ because I was left with the certainty of uncertainty, whether or not a Mediaeval beheading – shown in this book while other more recent ones are shown on Youtube – staunched the misting over of memory for good or ill, as a new State impends from warfare, as it does today where peoples remain Mistiaeval … as if forever.
    Meanwhile, the old couple’s ending is so utterly sad and beautiful, she with pain and blood in her urine, finally due to be taken alone to the island where perhaps their son in whatever form ‘resides’ (a giant because his margins are outside the hard edges of this book?), the couple remembering but also forgetting the Boatman’s passage from earlier in the book, and I wonder if I more subtly misremember it, as I wade ahead of this momentous book by my own volition…its vague memory floating on behind me, hopefully, forever, too. Ever on the edge of recall.

    END

    “DFL is ambiguous 2 a fault; a genre-literate soothsayer, the sphinx of syntax […] Des is a demon […] a la mort.”
    —from DRAGON’S BREATH periodical in 1994

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