​The Buried Giant

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read this post if you don’t want to have the plot revealed to you.

The Buried Giant is a novel by the British (Yes, British) author Kazuo Ishiguro, published in 2015.

A third person narrator introduces the story.

The novel is set right after the Britain of King Arthur with Britons peacefully living alongside Saxons.
The story focuses on Axl and Beatrice, an elderly Briton married couple living in a village carved into the hillside. 

Their social status in the village is low: the children in the village pester them, the adults take away the couple’s candle, forcing them to spend their nights in the dark.

They are devoted to one another, yet there is one discomforting issue that troubles Axl: he observes that not only he himself, but all people seem to have a problem with memory. Questioning someone in the village just a few days after an incident, results in a bored shrugging of the shoulders.
Recently Beatrice has become dead set on visiting their son in a nearby community… although neither of the couple seems to be sure they even have a son. Besides, they feel a bit uneasy about their visit since they think he left them after a quarrel about something they also can’t remember.
Still they set for the road, upon which some odd events occur and they also pick up a number of uncommon travel companions.

There is Wistan, a visiting Saxon warrior from the East, who rescues Edwin, a young boy who seems to have been bitten by a dragon.

They are also being confronted with soldiers and pixies who trouble them on their way.

They meet Sir Gawain, a knight on as quest to slay Querig, the she-dragon, though he  seems very half-heartedly to do so.

There’s a ferryman as well, but can he be trusted?

At a monastery, they meet the monk Jonus, who reveals that the “mist,” or forgetfulness of the population, is due to Querig. And apparently, Edwin’s dragon wound will allow him to find Querig.

Finally, at the dragon’s lair, Sir Gawain reveals that he is in fact Querig’s protector, since Querig’s breath causes forgetfulness and allows Saxon and Briton to live peacefully side by side.

Gawain and Wistan battle, and Wistan kills Gawain. Wistan then kills Querig, a decrepitly old dragon, thus ending the spell of forgetfulness.

Now that the “mist” will dissipate, war will soon break out with Saxons slaughtering Britons in a war of conquest. The meaning of the title is thus revealed: the buried giant is a metaphor for war.

In the final chapter of the novel, Beatrice and Axl have recovered their memories. Their son died of the plague. Beatrice had an adulterous affair while Axl was away and because of this, Axl refused to allow Beatrice to visit their son’s grave. 

Then the couple meets the ferryman for the second time. He offers to take the couple to an island where they can see their son, but insists that he ferry only Beatrice first. Axl finally accepts this decision, fully aware that the ferryman will not come back to pick him up as well.

A bittersweet ending is what awaits the reader. The romantic reader, I might add. After all, sentimentals hope things will last. Romantics hope against hope that they won’t.

I ought to read Ishiguro’s complete oeuvre in one long bout one day, I guess.


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