The Buried Giant

Bob’s Pick: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

This book piqued my curiosity. It is written by a Japanese gentleman, who happens to be one of Great Britain’s greatest authors. In fact, Mr. Ishiguro won the Noble prize for literature in 2017. I was duly impressed and just had to read this novel.

After reading this book, I came away more than satisfied!  Ostensibly, the “Buried Giant” is a fable (more like a parable) set in the magical times surrounding King Arthur.  Some of the events are reminiscent of Arthurian legends about the search for the holy grail. Other parts of the book remind me of another author’s work, namely the “Alchemist” written by Paul Coelho. I found these works to be similar in the sense that this story also was more concerned about the journey of its characters than about the destination.

The journey described is not so much about a physical journey than about the journey through “life”.  An elderly couple of Britons (original inhabitants of Great Britain) set on a journey to find their son.  Their names are Axl and Beatrice and they are old and happen to be very forgetful.  Their journey is dreamlike and they encounter various characters along the way.

Among these characters is Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew. He also is very old and was given a mission by King Arthur and Merlin (now both deceased) about a dragon named “Querig”.  Querig is not as terrifying as ones seen recently on “Game of Thrones”. Its main contribution to the story is that its breath has been magically endowed by Merlin to spread memory loss and forgetfulness throughout the land. This is a large contributing factor to Axl and Beatrice’s forgetfulness.

Axl and Beatrice link up with Sir Gawain and are later joined by another warrior by the name of Wistan and his young assistant by the name of Edwin. Both the newcomers are “Saxon”. This information turns out to be significant in that Britons and Saxons had lately been at war with each other.  Hostilities had ceased starting with the spread of the “forgetfulness” miasma. It is interesting to see how the relationship between Sir Gawain, a staunch Briton, and the Saxon warrior, Wistan, later develops.

In the meantime, Axl and Beatrice, like recovering amnesiacs, regain glimpses of their past lives. They recall that life wasn’t always kind to them.  They are remorseful that they can’t remember their happy occasions but are thankful that their dark moments remain hidden.

In their journey, they are ultimately preparing for their last moments together. They search for a  boatman who can take them to an island on a lake where they can find their son.  The boatman can be compared to Charon and the lake to the river, Styx.  In Arthurian times, the island in the lake would be known as Avalon. 

They find their boatman, but alas, he can only ferry them one at a time. They wish not to be separated in this life, but in the end they have no choice. They have a “dark chocolate ending”. Not only is it dark, but it also is bittersweet.