Guardian Live: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (Sunday 8th March 2015)

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“I am on the side of ogres and pixies!”

Responding to accusations led by legendary award winning author Ursula K. Le Guin that he despised the Fantasy genre, Kazuo Ishiguro refuted the claims by declaring he was “on the side of ogres and pixies.” Addressing an audience at The Royal Institution in London, made up of members and readers of The Guardian, the Booker Prize winning author spoke about his latest book, The Buried Giant, which while he admits does include the dragons, ogres and pixies associated with the Fantasy genre, for him there is more to the story than it just being labeled with a genre. The book (his first in ten years) is set in Britain during the Arthurian period, a time of relative peace after the Roman but before the Anglo-Saxon invasions. Its a Britain with many different ethnic tribes and languages co-existing. “Today what we call a multicultural society was evolving before the Anglo-Saxons invaded,” says Ishiguro. It took him sometime to get the setting of his story right; he had thought about different places such as America, Bosnia, Ireland, Rwanda and South Africa where there had been histories of war and civil unrest. Over time the inhabitants of these lands learned to co-exist peacefully to the point of almost forgetting the often dark and painful memories of the past.

Many, if not all of Ishiguro’s previous work is preoccupied with themes relating to love, memory and mortality and in The Buried Giant there is no difference. The central characters, Axl and Beatrice, are an elderly couple who go on a journey in search of their long lost son which they hope will rekindle their love. However, the thought of not knowing where their son is as well as how he got estranged from them in the first place deeply troubles them to the point that, at some level, there is a feeling of not wanting to remember so as to not dig up painful memories of the past. “At times you need to force amnesia on a society in order to maintain the peace,” reflects Ishiguro, before adding: “But when this is done in a marriage or relationship there will always be questions surrounding the realness of love and whether it can survive when certain dark memories are excavated.” This forcing of amnesia on a society which Ishiguro describes is evident in the story through the mythical figure of the dragon who blows a mist which causes the people to forget the past. He says, “Mist is used, perhaps for political reasons, to make people forget an awful period of violence from ages past. The dragon at the end of the story is the source of the mist. As long as the dragon is alive the circle of violence will not resurface as peace is enforced through amnesia.”

With previous works such as The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go turned into major Hollywood blockbusting films, Ishiguro delightedly revealed that Hollywood film director, Scott Rudin, has secured the rights to put his latest book on the big screen. When asked which actors he would have to play the main roles he remarked: “None alive today. Gary Cooper and Bette Davis as the old couple with James Stewart as Sir Gaiwan.”

The Buried Giant is currently available from all good book stores.

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Kazuo Ishiguro with the writer

© Copyright 2015 Darell J Philip

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