ID 45941
title alternative
The Buried Giant as Inheritance and Development of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Literary World
Ikezono, Hiroshi
English and American literature
On publication Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest work The Buried Giant (2015) evoked both public acclaim and criticism due to his unprecedented representation of fantastic elements. Recognizing his apparently drastic turn to fantasy, however, this paper intends to investigate how the new novel inherits and develops the literary traits which permeate the author’s previous works, focusing on its predecessor Never Let Me Go (2005) in particular.
One of the most noteworthy plot features shared by BG and NLMG is the bizarre but significant “test of love” and the protagonists’ failure in passing it. In NLMG the clone couple Kathy and Tommy try in vain to demonstrate their mutual love in order to obtain a deferral of organ donation. In the closing scene of BG the old couple Axl and Beatrice are requested by a boatman to show their strong bond of love in order to sail to the enigmatic island together. The long-forgotten memory of their past discords, however, leads to their failure to share their voyage and consequently to their separation.
Memory is an indispensable theme Ishiguro pursues in every work, but one highly innovative facet of development in BG is the unprecedented construction of the narrative world based upon the assumption of collective amnesia that spreads in society. This ultimately unique setting effectively contributes to individuals’ suffering from contradiction between love and memory; their natural interdependence is hampered by the hopeless impossibility of remembering love. In parallel with the death of Querig, the she-dragon whose breath has been erasing human memories, the unexpected disclosure of memories that should have remained hidden overshadows the old couple’s love, accelerating their final parting.
In BG this private problem of disparity between love and memory is extended further to a more public level of society, nation, or tribe. Irrevocable disasters that actually occurred in tribal conflicts such as that of Bosnia or Kosovo, Ishiguro says, helped him develop the novel’s incipient concept. In BG he deals with how human beings can intentionally uncover hidden pasts and incite tribal hatred, not love, consequently reversing and controlling the so-called public history. In BG, although the past memory or history of Britons’ genocide of Saxons has long been erased, Wistan, a Saxon warrior with conscious hatred of Britons, succeeds in digging up the buried history and turning the table in favour of his tribe, with the possible result of the other tribe’s downfall.
Thus considered, BG can be labelled as a dystopian novel under cover of its fantastic features. Ishiguro’s aim is rather different, however, as demonstrated in his argument on the relation of love and death, which he says NLMG and BG have in common. In order to confirm this, Axl and Beatrice’s parting scene requires further examination. Ishiguro explains the voyage to the island is about metaphorical death, then insists love, although hard to find and maintain, can trump death if carried out even halfway successfully. This idea offers a ray of hope to the old couple’s fatal parting. In spite of its inevitability, Ishiguro does not negate or bury the memory of their long-fostered love; Axl manages to persuade Beatrice into agreeing to remember it still in the face of black shadows marring it. Here is Ishiguro’s positive belief in memory’s intrinsic value, which he has explored throughout his literary career.
The same applies to the public history. After the revival of the buried giant, or the hidden societal collective memory, all that is left for Britons is tribal ruin or death. However, the ambivalent position of Wistan, who lived among Britons in his childhood, has him treasure love as well as hatred for them. He then entrusts Edwin, a promising Saxon boy, with the task of taking over their tribe’s vengeance. But Edwin, who gradually sympathizes with Axl and Beatrice, also emotionally vacillates, excluding them from his scheme. The two Saxons’ inner scruples are a saving grace in the devastating future prospects, particularly since they are triggered by the memory of love and bonds. Ishiguro attempts to fuse severe social realism with generous emotional idealism. BG reflects both Ishiguro’s established literary tastes and the ever-developing targets of his creative attention.
本稿は日本英文学会中国四国支部第69回大会シンポジアム「Kazuo Ishiguro 再考―さらなる解釈の可能性を求めて」(2016年10月30日,愛媛大学)において口頭発表した原稿に加筆修正を加えたものである。
journal title
Hiroshima studies in English language and literature
Volume 62
start page
end page
date of issued
nii type
Departmental Bulletin Paper
HU type
Departmental Bulletin Papers
DCMI type
text version
Graduate School of Letters