The buried giant

Taking a step away from academic literature, Stephen Town adds a lighter, but no less compelling read to his Nightshelf donations.


Ishiguro, K., The buried giant, coming soon to the University Library

Disclaimer: the book isn't actually about a buried giant
The Awakening by Jeff Kubina. Used under a Creative Commons licence
I have steered clear of novels in my gifts so far, although there is no reason why these do not fall into the category of popular but serious, and I do have a lot of fiction on my nightshelf. As holidays approach it might be helpful to identify at least one item for possible summer reading. I read this book as one of my ‘airport’ selections for a week in Lake Como. Normally I load up my Kindle, but lack of preparation and the need to occupy waiting time meant selecting a hard copy, and as the library already has an electronic version, this can go on the shelves for traditionalists.

Arthurian history is hazy and contradictory.
Licensed under Public Domain
by Wikimedia Commons
I chose this book not only because of Ishiguro’s record of producing great works (Never Let Me Go I found particularly chilling), but also because of my interest in what used to be called the Dark Ages and specifically Arthurian history, literature and speculation. Driving to work through the possible site of the Battle of Badon every day to my previous job never ceased to provide a thrill, and I have an extensive collection of Arthurian related books.

The easiest way to describe this book is strange. Reviewers seem to have had difficulty both categorising and understanding it, and it is not as easy or smooth a read as Ishiguro’s other work. Is it a fable, an allegory, a romance or a comment on contemporary international relations? You can decide for yourself.

A mist has descended on Britain as Britons and Saxons live side by side; but they do so partly because the mist makes them forget past atrocities. An elderly couple seek their son in a landscape which is populated with mythical beasts and remnants of former combatants including Sir Gawain.

The conclusion is disturbing.

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