Turning the pages with ANDY: The Buried Giant

Michelle Yeung
March 12, 2015
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

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Man Booker Prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro makes a valiant return with The Buried Giant, a novel about a land beset by a shared amnesia. It is this misty state of fragmented knowing that is captured in the Japanese author’s latest novel. Ten years in the making and entangled by magical enchantment, this story is a masterful blend of fantasy, legend, and Arthurian romance. Rarely do dragons meld with literary fiction, but Ishiguro does so with captivating finesse.

Set in England sometime around sixth century AD, the story follows an elderly couple named Axl and Beatrice. Due to their old age, they are cast as outsiders of their village, mocked by children and exiled to the least desirable dwelling. A dense mist of forgetfulness hangs over the landscape, robbing everyone of their memory. In brief flashes, Beatrice recalls that she and Axl have a grown son who lives a fair voyage away. And so they embark on a journey to find their forgotten son, encountering pixies, ogres, and wanderers who’s fates become entwined with theirs. As is typical of these chivalric medieval romances, no one – and no thing – are what they seem at first, and true character is revealed as the travellers aim to destroy the source of the memory depleting mist.

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Undoubtedly, Ishiguro is a literary genius. In The Buried Giant, he enlists one of the great, recurring themes of his works — the individual versus the collective society — which engages the reader in rewarding retrospection. There is not just one couple’s memories to consider. Forgetting allows a society to live with past sins and atrocities. Some things are better left forgotten, as consequence could outweigh all else when the mist is dispelled.

Perhaps a valid criticism of the novel lies in its pace. Even readers accustomed to Ishiguro’s writing may find the earlier scenes slow. The new aspects of “magical realism” also take some getting used to, and some moments with swords and sorcery seem superfluous. But these minor distractions are worth enduring.

The couple’s journey isn’t just a search for their son, but one that measures up to the calibre of Sir Gawain’s and King Arthur’s legendary quests. The Buried Giant is a story about the unyielding yet flawed love between two people. Told through excellent prose and delicate humanity, Ishiguro warns readers of uncovering lost memories, for you can never be certain of what buried giants you may unearth.

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