…that there is no point in reading fiction, the truly great novel The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro fell into my lap.
I am almost speaking the truth. More specifically, the novel was on display at the library, where I accidently knocked it over. I picked it up, became fascinated by the cover, was intrigued by the title, made a note of the author’s name, read the sales pitch summary on the back cover, and then went ahead and borrowed the book from the nice machine librarian. The rest is history. I hurried home and read the novel without stopping for more than a midnight snack and some stretching of the legs.
The story is set in a post-Arthurian England enveloped in a strange mist that makes people forget the past. The main characters of the story are Beatrice and Axl, an old and gentle couple who, for some reason, are badly treated by their fellow villagers. Something makes Axl and Beatrice remember that they have a son who eagerly awaits them in a nearby village. They set out to find him, and on their journey they find many reasons for concern: what would happen if the mist disappeared and they were to retrieve their memories? What would they find out about themselves and each other? Would their love and friendship endure the lifting of the mist?
During the many hardships on their journey they hold on to each other as best they can. They meet strange people and creatures, and each new encounter seems to bring them closer to an answer.
The Buried Giant is a novel inhabited by mythological creatures such as the ferryman of the dead, Sir Gawain (one of King Arthur’s knights), dragons, trolls, sprites and demons. Their presence adds a dreamlike dimension to the story of Axl and Beatrice, which invites the reader to walk beside the old couple and experience at first hand the effects of their lost memories.
Halfway through the novel I was tempted to make references to Pilgrim’s Progress and Beowulf, but then I realised that there is no need for comparisons of any kind. The Buried Giant is a story in its own right. A very memorable one at that.