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Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Aged Dragon in the Underground Lair

Although The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro, wasn’t everybody’s favorite read, it generated discussion. The book comprised a number of themes: we discussed memory, forgiveness, revenge, quests, aging and death.

Sometimes the themes were joined together, as when the Mist brought forgetfulness; and thoughts, promises, and plans regarding revenge were forgotten. Then, when we knew the Mist was going to be lifted, we realized that those who had sought revenge had been angered by people who were young, and now those same people were old; so the motive for revenge had lost power over time. Axl was an old man during the story, but he had been a young Roman warrior named Axelus or Axelum when Gawain was also young.  In the story, Gawain had been planning revenge for something Axl had done but let it go. As one of my friends once said, “Age is a great equalizer.”

The memory theme was poignant in the book, as the mist-caused forgetfulness was poignant. At first, it seemed that the elderly couple was suffering age-related memory loss, but then it became evident that the forgetfulness was caused by the dragon. Some of the correlated concepts that were thought-provoking were that forgetfulness helped the old couple to forget the grief that they had over their son’s death that had occurred during the plague; in the story, they were pursuing a journey to visit their son. The forgetfulness was also considered to have brought peace to the civilization by eliminating hate and revenge. Old wounds healed and relationships were saved because negative thoughts and feelings and grudges were forgotten. The author actively illustrated this forgetting by showing how it occurred between the elderly couple, Beatrice and Axl.

The boatman and the island he rowed people to were obvious symbols of the final journey of death. Early in the book an elderly, almost mythical witchlike woman told a tale of the boatman telling her that some couples were enabled to go to the island together but most were not; legend said people on the island wandered around alone and lonely, unable to find each other. At the end of the story, our discussion group worked hard to interpret the words the author used to describe the old couple, Beatrice and Axl, as they encountered the boatman. Beatrice was clearly ready to stay in the boat and go to the island. The boatman told Axl there was not room for him, but that the boat would return for him. Axl was then ignoring the boat and boatman and walking on his own. We had a little trouble being sure of what was happening and which direction Axl was headed, but the general consensus was that Beatrice was being carried to the island and Axl was walking toward it, both on their separate ways to death.

The Buried Giant was an excellent Book Discussion book!

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