For the longest time (alright, even now), I was of the opinion that my reading choices were not good enough to be shared. All through school, I read the “classics” and the “greats”, Shakespeare and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle, because I thought that is what Reading meant: going through these books painstakingly. Though this made me familiar with the idiom Set teeth on edge. So I stopped.
[Side note: பல்லு கடிச்சா வயிறுல பூச்சி இருக்குனு அர்த்தம், as my grandmother liked to say.]
This feeling came back to me while reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant.
It is the story of an old couple, Axl and Beatrice, living in a miserable village in medieval England. They have been ordered to live in darkness by the town council, and they try to bear their suffering with some dignity. Nobody remembers much in this land, they don’t remember what they had for breakfast and neither do they remember any significant events from their lives. Their forgetfulness is possibly due to a mist which hangs over the land, which is in turn caused by the breath of a dragon named Querig. Axl and Beatrice set out on a journey to find/meet their son (about whom they don’t remember much of course, they assume he is a fine young man and that he needs their help). On their way, they meet a couple of knights, a boy, some monks, a boatman and an old lady (etc), and therefore they have many yawn-inducing adventures. How do they remember they had a son? I’m not sure, but over time, Axl and Beatrice seem to vaguely recall a past they shared, and a son who left them (probably in anger), among other things. The memories come to them in bits and pieces, leaving them muddled and confused.
Well, the novel isn’t really about mythical creatures. It is a story about memories, and who we are without them. It is a story that asks if forgiveness would be possible when we remember the grievances done to us. It is a story of love that has survived numerous upheavals.
But that didn’t make my experience any less tiresome. For one, Axl insists on calling his wife Princess throughout the book, in every single line he utters. I repeat, every single line. Is it possible to not feel annoyed by this?
“Does your leg hurt, princess?”
“If you say so, princess.”
“Are you sure, princess?”
We get it, she is his princess.
And they insist on having the same conversations over and over again. Okay, let me not be unkind, they must not have remembered that they spoke about this very thing…two pages ago. I found it difficult to relate to any of the characters, there is a sense of coldness pervading all proceedings; can we attribute this to the mist as well? The descriptions and details felt a bit anachronistic to me, but maybe that was intentional.
I suppose my intellect hasn’t developed enough to understand all the symbolism and meaning buried in this book.