Hesitated getting Kazuo Ishiguro's new book 'The Buried Giant'. It's completely different from his earlier stories. What's up with this new nod to fantasy?! His pretty good 'Never Let Me Go' is more sci-fi lah. While this new book was low on the to-read list, curiosity won out and I got a copy, fully intending to pass it on to the friends after.
Kazuo Ishiguro said he based the story on the samurai tales he grew up on, Masaki Kobayashi's subversive samurai films, and how societies remember history and painful events, whether they move on or disintegrate. All the wars through the years, the last WWII and what's been going on in the Middle East and Africa. The story is set in Middle England with a character named Arthur who is the leader of the Britons, and a wizard named Merlin. Sixth century, a time of peace between Britons and Saxons. Knights, a she-dragon named Querig, ogres, demons and pixies. HUHHH?!! I was highly skeptical. (Reviews here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)
Elderly couple Axl and Beatrice who, compelled by a vague sense of unease and not concrete news or even rumors, left their small community to go in search of their son whom they can't seem to remember details of. Their journey requires them to recall and confront past trauma and remember the lessons from those episodes. Also, there seems to be a fog of collective amnesia across the land, and not just figuratively. They then acquire two traveling companions- Wistan, a Saxon knight and 12-year-old Edwin who's his apprentice and page. Thus begins a tale of whom they meet and the discovery that the fog of amnesia is actually an enchantment to encourage the forgetting of past feuds in the lands and hence achieving the peace today.
The dialogue sounded okay in the narrative. Nothing too archaic and not too contemporary. Although it was a tad stilted. When I was done got to the last page, I sighed deeply. This imagined world is difficult to sink into. The realm of fantasy is not Kazuo Ishiguro's forte.
There was a pause before Sir Gawain's voice came back. "The dog stares our way and nothing now between us."
Twisting, Axl looked around the pillar in time to see the beast leap forward. The old knight's face, caught in moonlight, looked aghast as he swung his sword, but too late, and the creature was past him and moving unerringly towards Edwin.
The boy's eyes grew large, but he did not drop the candle. Instead he moved aside, almost as if out of politeness, to let the beast pass. And to Axl's surprise, the creature did just that, running on into the blackness of the tunnel out of which not long ago they had all emerged.
"I'll hold it up yet," Axl shouted. "Cross the threshold and save yourselves!"
But neither Beatrice beside him, nor Sir Gawain, who had lowered his sword, seemed to hear. Even Edwin appeared to have lost interest in the terrible creature that had just sped past him and would surely return any moment. The boy, candle held before him, came over to where the old knight was standing, and together they stared down at the ground.