Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, a.k.a. quest love


For a book with an actual dragon, The Buried Giant is pretty chill.

Axl and Beatrice—”perhaps these were not their exact or full names, but for ease, this is how we will refer to them”—are an elderly married couple in post-Arthurian Britain, or rather a version of that time and place in which no one can remember anything for more than a few hours. Inspired by vague memories of their son, A&B set off to another village to find him and, as is wont to happen when one goes on journeys in post-Arthurian Britain, are confronted by a series of characters and challenges along the way (including but not limited to: a warrior, a knight, a dragon and a bunch of creepy old ladies). As they travel across land belonging to both Saxons and Britons—formerly warring factions since turned peaceful neighbors—Axl and Beatrice reflect on their lives together and vie to discover things forgotten.

In the Quest genre, TBG follows familiar patterns: misunderstood characters travel from their homes in pursuit of [insert maguffin here], and through a series of distracting but meaningful encounters discover truths that change their perception of themselves, reality or both. These journeys—see: Lord of the Rings, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland—are of course stand-ins for life itself, whose maguffin is a mix of happiness and meaning and whose distracting but influential encounters are hard to spot amid all the wearables and Bud Light ads. Seriously, if I saw Gollum reading a newspaper on the subway at rush hour I’m not sure I would bat an eye, let alone absorb a life lesson.

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Lend me your ears

There’s no greater evidence of my supremely overstocked book inventory than this week’s read, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, which I received as either a birthday or Christmas present something like four years ago and which subsequently languished on my shelves long enough for someone to make a movie adaptation, for that movie adaptation to appear in and leave theaters and finally end up on HBO, which is where I recorded it last week.

Of course, outside of the fact that it might be construed as rather insulting to receive and then ignore a gift for half a decade, there is something rather pleasant about being able to read a book and watch the movie in close succession. And the film adaptation of Never Let Me Go, which stars Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield (he of Spider-Man fame), was all the more enjoyable because I had only just finished the final chapter of the novel. In fact, as adaptations go, it hews incredibly closely to the novel, down to specific pieces of dialogue. No major plot points were changed, and the limited number of omissions were understandable in a story strewn with seemingly innocuous events that together form a broader portrait of a relationship between friends. 

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