The Buried Giant is a different book from Ishiguro’s previous ones, and that’s something I admired before I read it. But it was an interview I saw with him that made me pick it up. By that time, I’d already forgotten what The Buried Giant was about, but I was touched and impressed by what he said about taking 10 years to write it: that there are enough books in the world already, and he wants to be sure that everything he writes is a contribution, however small, to the existing body of literature. This book is that.
It’s not The Remains of The Day. It’s an allegory, a fable. Ishiguro wanted to write about memory and devastating ethnic conflicts, and had considered writing about something within his own memory, but decided against that approach because he didn’t want the conversation to be about the particulars of Yugoslavia or Rwanda. So instead he set the story in the historical gap between Roman and early medieval Britain, in the echo of Arthur’s days.
It’s the story of an elderly couple searching for their son and their past after decades of a mysterious mist that has softened and erased memory. They encounter knights, monks, warriors, orphans and an elderly dragon who has saved and seared the mental landscape.
I loved this book. It’s not showy but it’s loving, honest, gentle and unflinching about the best and worst of being human, of passion, of what memory gives us, how it drives us.