I rarely feel like a rush through a book just to say I’ve finished it, but this is what happened with this one. In a way, it was worth it because there were some interesting things to think about towards the end. So I will not summarize the plot here. Others have done that. Let me just share some thoughts that occurred as I was reading the book.
- The description of sleeping quarters and eating were highly reminiscent of Sigrid Unset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, so I had the same pictures in my head when Axl and Beatrice, the two main characters, visit various dwellings while they are on their quest.
- Obviously this is a “quest” novel, so it stands to reason that achieving the objective was not easy and there were many obstacles along the way. And of course, what was thought of as the objective turns out to be somewhat of an illusion…
- In the end, the warrior Wistan succeeds in killing the she-dragon whose breath was creating a mist that caused everyone to lose their long term memory. Her death did result in the slow return of some memories. A question arises though: were these memories worth recovering if they are only to cause pain?
Many discussions in the book are about things and conversations forgotten, and about trying hard to remember. Here is such a conversation between Axl and Beatrice, which also touches upon the risk of recovering lost memories.
“Axl, tell me if the she-dragon’s really slain, and the mist starts to clear. Axl, do you ever fear what will then be revealed to us?”
“Didn’t you say it yourself, princess? Our life together’s like a tale with a happy end, no matter what turns it took on the way.”
“I said so before, Axl. Yet now it may even be we’ll slay Querig with our own hands, there’s a part of me fears the mist’s fading. Can it be so with you, Axl?”
“Perhaps it is, princess. Perhaps it’s always been so. But I fear most what you spoke of earlier. I mean as we rested beside the fire.”
“What was it I said then, Axl?”
“You don’t remember, princess?”
“Did we have some foolish quarrel? I’ve no memory of it now, except that I was near my wit’s end from cold and want of rest.”
“If you’ve no memory of it, princess, then let it stay forgotten.”
The dialogues have a strange rhythm, as if stringing words together was also becoming difficult, as if rational thought was being slowed to a crawl, in the same way as Beatrice becomes more slow and frail as their quest goes on. There is a haunting quality to this book and its bittersweet ending.
Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Buried Giant. Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.