Book Review: "The Buried Giant," by Kazuo Ishiguro
Those familiar with the Japanese-born British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro may best remember his Man Booker-winning "The Remains of the Day" and "Never Let Me Go," both of which received widespread critical acclaim and were adapted as feature films. His lesser-known works are arguably equally magnificent - "A Pale View of Hills" and "An Artist of the Floating World," among others. Each is in its own way a pared-down, understated masterpiece. "The Buried Giant," his first book in 10 years, outstrips them all.
Unlike Ishiguro's previous works, which are set in the 20th century, "The Buried Giant" takes place in a bleak, primitive England within a generation of the death of King Arthur. It's a world of lack and shadowy fears, in which the elderly couple Axl and Beatrice work as members of an isolated farming village. Saxon and Briton communities, once at bitter war with each other but now peacefully settled, are spread thinly over an uncultivated landscape where human and inhuman dangers roam. In spite of these dangers Axl and Beatrice decide to make a journey to their son's village. They meet a Saxon warrior, a strange boy, and an aged knight, each on a quest of his own. The farther they travel, the more the couple understands they have lost something they do not yet fully comprehend, and that the regaining of it may destroy what little they have left and have consequences reaching far beyond their own lives. Ishiguro's perennial themes of loss, self-delusion, and the corrosive action of reality upon ideals shape the story as bit by bit the mysteries unravel and the quests converge towards a culmination that is equal parts bitter heartbreak and transcendent beauty.
Though "The Buried Giant" plays with elements of the fantasy and historical fiction genres, it is vastly more: through the prism of Axl and Beatrice, it is a profound exploration into previously unarticulated territories of memory and love. Ishiguro has made a wholly new contribution to world literature, and the finest achievement yet in his exceptional career. I recommend this book to you with all my heart.
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