The Buried Giant (Vintage International) - book cover
  • Publisher : Vintage; Reprint edition
  • Published : 05 Jan 2016
  • Pages : 336
  • ISBN-10 : 0307455793
  • ISBN-13 : 9780307455796
  • Language : English

The Buried Giant (Vintage International)

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • From the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and author of Never Let Me Go and the Booker Prize–winning novel The Remains of the Day comes a luminous meditation on the act of forgetting and the power of memory.
In post-Arthurian Britain, the wars that once raged between the Saxons and the Britons have finally ceased. Axl and Beatrice, an elderly British couple, set off to visit their son, whom they haven't seen in years. And, because a strange mist has caused mass amnesia throughout the land, they can scarcely remember anything about him. As they are joined on their journey by a Saxon warrior, his orphan charge, and an illustrious knight, Axl and Beatrice slowly begin to remember the dark and troubled past they all share.

By turns savage, suspenseful, and intensely moving, The Buried Giant is a luminous meditation on the act of forgetting and the power of memory.

Editorial Reviews

"Spectacular. . . . The Buried Giant has the clear ring of legend, as graceful, original and humane as anything Ishiguro has written." -The Washington Post

"An exceptional novel. . . . The Buried Giant does what important books do: It remains in the mind long after it has been read, refusing to leave." -Neil Gaiman, The New York Times Book Review

"Lush and thrilling, rolling the gothic, fantastical, political, and philosophical into one." -The New Republic

"Mesmerizing. . . . A provocative, multilayered mosaic. . . . Lifetimes of myth, allegory, and epic discoveries are contained within." -The Christian Science Monitor 

"A literary tour de force so unassuming that you don't realize until the last page that you're reading a masterpiece." -USA Today

"Splendid. . . . Excellent. . . . The Buried Giant is a simple and powerful tale of love, aging and loss." -The Wall Street Journal

"Ishiguro is a master of the uncanny. . . . Few write about the mysteries of the human experience with such grace as Ishiguro, and his prodigious gifts are evident throughout the novel." -San Francisco Chronicle

"Devastating . . . As emotionally ruinous an ending as any I've read in a very long time, and it made me circle back to the opening pages, to re-enter the strange mist of this sad and remarkable book." -Mark O'Connell, Slate

"A profound meditation on trauma, memory, and the collective lies nations and groups create to expiate their guilt." -The Boston Globe

"If forced at knife-point to choose my favorite Ishiguro novel, I'd opt for The Buried Giant. It uses the tropes of fantasy to set up a smoke-screen which the book then, by twists and turns, dispels. This reveal gives the book a shadow-plot, and layers of mystery . . . An ideas-enabler, a metaphor-animator." -David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks

"Ishiguro is a deft gut-renovator of genres, bringing fresh life and feeling to hollowed-out conventions. . . . The love story at its center shimmers with a mythic and melancholy grace." -Vulture

"A beautiful, heartbreaking book about the duty to remember and the urge to forget." -The Guardian (London)

 "Powerful and disturbing. . . . Provokes strong emotions-and lingers long in the mind." -The Economist

"A beautiful fable with a hard message at its core. . . . There won't, I suspect, be a more important work of fiction published this year than The Buried Giant." -John Sutherland, The Times (London)

"A novel of imaginative daring that, in its subtleties of tone, mood and reflection, could be the work o...

Readers Top Reviews

I read 'The Buried Giant' and thought it almost a brilliant novel. The allegory is a simple one with a simple message: the mists of forgetfulness might be a blessing. Don't try to disperse them before you understand what you are doing. The meaning of the title, however, remained hidden from me until the end of the book; a warning, perhaps, that all is not well. Superficially, it is a fireside tale, initially narrated in the voice of a storyteller. Axl and Beatrice are a margialised, elderly couple whose community will not even allow them a candle. One day they decide to go on a journey to find a son they can only just remember. Along the way, they pass through a world that never was, apart from the fragments we retain today in old manuscripts and tales. This soon becomes an exploration of an ancient Britain made from dreams, hardly defined at all. Even then, its landscapes and people could have been made more generic. By rooting the story in the Dark Ages and in Arthurian myth, Ishiguro weighs it down and it struggles to lift itself above its own references. Other reviewers have mentioned Tolkien as a possible influence, pointing to his essay 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.' It may be better to cite Tolkien's short allegorical story. 'Leaf by Niggle' where an insignificant artist goes on a different journey of his own. I suspect that tale, which combines the mundane with the metaphysical, is a better reference point. Where Ishiguro adds a modicum of detail to his story it often seems oddly drawn and tugs at the attention in a way that creates a feeling of misplaced strangeness. Axl and Beatrice's encounter with a boatman and an old woman in the rain-drenched ruins of a Roman villa is a good example. The meeting is frightening, but only partly explained and the effect is distracting. It reminded me of films like 'Spirited Away' where a character will suddenly make an oblique statement, or perform what appears to be a contextually meaningless act. The cultural reference behind the moment is lost on us and we feel uncomfortable. There's a disadvantage to creating these seeming discontinuities in the narrative, because as we parse the events and fail to make complete sense of them, the coherence of the tale suffers. In itself, this would not be enough to spoil the book. However, taken with the Arthurian references which, for me, never seem completely right or mature enough; the way key information is delivered in oddly mannered speech by characters, and a plodding questing journey through forests, gloomy tunnels and sinister monasteries, the storyline sometimes feels contrived and clunky. At one point I imagined I was playing an old text-based adventure game. 'You are in the pit. The portcullis is raised: a hideous animal runs at you from the darkness.' In contrast, the fight scenes are pure Kurosawa. Nothing mu...
I read this book straight through in just under a day. It is a tale that grabs your heart in a subtle yet firm way - and takes you on a journey with a small number of companions who each have a different connection with history and memory and identity. A strange mist hangs over this tale that gives you every increasing glimpses of the giants that lied buried beneath. There is an allegorical depth to this tale that will take some time for me to more fully understand and appreciate it. It is a tale that touches on what it means to love - in spite of hurt and pain. Of how people try and deal with grief both personal and tribal. It has clear echoes of resonance with what is happening today. How do we choose to remember and celebrate? What do we choose to remember and celebrate? And why? And when all is said and done and commemorated, what do we do then? Where do we go? This novel gives much for the soul and heart to ponder. Thank you.
Mr. John ReedLisa Bu
I loved ‘Never let me go’. Maybe that’s because I read books as they are. I don’t look for allegories , deeper meanings or anything much beyond the writing. So I embarked on this novel. And it was hard work. The style was stilted and formal. Everyone spoke much the same so you had to ensure which character was talking. The format is very episodic, except each episode doesn’t necessarily start at the beginning so you have to hang on a few pages to find out where the character/ animal/ etc came from. So I actually found it very difficult if not impossible to engage with the players. I say players because elements of it reminded me of those old computer games called something like ‘adventure quest’ , where you had to ask the right questions to get the right answers. Only it took the whole book for them to ask the right questions. At the end I found myself admiring the quality of the writing, the construction of the plot but totally missing what the purpose of the book was. I was astonished by the rave reviews and wondered if there was another version of the book I had not been allowed to read.
Claude Forthomme
I confess this is the first Ishiguro novel I read and I came to it because he won this year's Nobel. So I was curious. I'm always curious when a writer wins a Nobel, sometimes it's helped me discover a new author I like, most of the time it's been a disappointment (for example, I can't stand Orhan Pamuk). So I wanted to find out about Ishiguro and try to figure out whether I liked him or not. And I picked this novel because it was his latest, though I'd seen Remains of the Day (the film) and loved it. I probably should have read that one because I was rather disappointed with the Buried Giant. Don't get me wrong. It's beautifully written, yes, he's a master writer, no doubt about that. But the book is a bit of a bore, largely because it is slow-paced and so full of clichés. It's an allegory, it's a fable, yes, but I'm very tired of dragons and pixies and mysterious illnesses and mists that bring memory loss. Terribly banal descriptions of post-Arthurian Britain, a dark, muddy medieval time that is tiresomely predictable. As to the dialogues, well, totally unrealistic, stilted, uninspired. Old Axl calls his wife "princess" every single time he addresses her, and by the end of the book, you feel like screaming STOP! As to the deep "message"the author is out to convey, in a way, he doesn't do such a bad job of it. First he clearly confuses his readers and I think that is rather interesting (I wonder whether he does it on purpose). I've been looking at reviews here, and some are quite intriguing, seeing it as a tale of love between two octogenarians afflicted with Alzheimer's, others seeing it as a philosophical reflection on the roots of violence and war. The principle that Ishiguro is out to illustrate is clear enough: People live in an uneasy peace with each other largely because they don't think about (or don't remember) the wrongs they've endured in the past. The "buried giant" is made up of past hatred, and when the "mist" that makes people forget about such dark and terrible things starts to lift, the giant rises again, expect war and death to return! It makes for an interesting political theory. Certainly Hitler came to power because Germany felt wronged by the outcome of World War I, in "Mein Kampf" he stirred up memories and called for revenge. So, yes, I can certainly "buy" this idea. But is a long fantasy novel the best way to convey this theory? I'm not sure. On one level, it works, on another it doesn't, largely because the plot is boring and as noted by many reviewers here, characters are one-dimensional, it's hard to get emotionally involved in this book... Will I read another Ishiguro book? Yes, I will. I'm still undecided whether this is an author who deserves the Nobel, maybe he does after all...Because, in spite of all the shortcomings of The Buried Giant, this is a book that is unusual, it's not like ...
I have never read anything quite like this ever before..The Buried Giant is part fable, part road-story, part exploration of character: when the point of the journey and the backstory becomes clear, it was as if a light came on. I can think of some people who'd find this writing infuriating: the whole way in which it's handled makes it hard to work out whether what's being described is the world as it is or the world as it's being seen by the characters. Once I'd decided simply to allow the author's approach to work itself out, I loved it: but, as I say, it's a really strange book, a really strange way of writing. And: please note my star rating: once I'd finished it, I thought it brilliant! ( I went on to read some of the author's other works: they're quite different, both from this and really, from each other: but just as skilfully written! I now have a new author to follow)

Short Excerpt Teaser

Chapter One

You would have searched a long time for the sort of winding lane or tranquil meadow for which England later became celebrated. There were instead miles of desolate, uncultivated land; here and there rough-hewn paths over craggy hills or bleak moorland. Most of the roads left by the Romans would by then have become broken or overgrown, often fading into wilderness. Icy fogs hung over rivers and marshes, serving all too well the ogres that were then still native to this land. The people who lived nearby-one wonders what desperation led them to settle in such gloomy spots-might well have feared these creatures, whose panting breaths could be heard long before their deformed figures emerged from the mist. But such monsters were not cause for astonishment. People then would have regarded them as everyday hazards, and in those days there was so much else to worry about. How to get food out of the hard ground; how not to run out of firewood; how to stop the sickness that could kill a dozen pigs in a single day and produce green rashes on the cheeks of children.

In any case, ogres were not so bad provided one did not provoke them. One had to accept that every so often, perhaps following some obscure dispute in their ranks, a creature would come blundering into a village in a terrible rage, and despite shouts and brandishings of weapons, rampage about injuring anyone slow to move out of its path. Or that every so often, an ogre might carry off a child into the mist. The people of the day had to be philosophical about such outrages.

In one such area on the edge of a vast bog, in the shadow of some jagged hills, lived an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice. Perhaps these were not their exact or full names, but for ease, this is how we will refer to them. I would say this couple lived an isolated life, but in those days few were "isolated" in any sense we would understand. For warmth and protection, the villagers lived in shelters, many of them dug deep into the hillside, connecting one to the other by underground passages and covered corridors. Our elderly couple lived within one such sprawling warren-"building" would be too grand a word-with roughly sixty other villagers. If you came out of their warren and walked for twenty minutes around the hill, you would have reached the next settlement, and to your eyes, this one would have seemed identical to the first. But to the inhabitants themselves, there would have been many distinguishing details of which they would have been proud or ashamed.

I have no wish to give the impression that this was all there was to the Britain of those days; that at a time when magnificent civilisations flourished elsewhere in the world, we were here not much beyond the Iron Age. Had you been able to roam the countryside at will, you might well have discovered castles containing music, fine food, athletic excellence; or monasteries with inhabitants steeped in learning. But there is no getting around it. Even on a strong horse, in good weather, you could have ridden for days without spotting any castle or monastery looming out of the greenery. Mostly you would have found communities like the one I have just described, and unless you had with you gifts of food or clothing, or were ferociously armed, you would not have been sure of a welcome. I am sorry to paint such a picture of our country at that time, but there you are.

To return to Axl and Beatrice. As I said, this elderly couple lived on the outer fringes of the warren, where their shelter was less protected from the elements and hardly benefited from the fire in the Great Chamber where everyone congregated at night. Perhaps there had been a time when they had lived closer to the fire; a time when they had lived with their children. In fact, it was just such an idea that would drift into Axl's mind as he lay in his bed during the empty hours before dawn, his wife soundly asleep beside him, and then a sense of some unnamed loss would gnaw at his heart, preventing him from returning to sleep.

Perhaps that was why, on this particular morning, Axl had abandoned his bed altogether and slipped quietly outside to sit on the old warped bench beside the entrance to the warren in wait for the first signs of daylight. It was spring, but the air still felt bitter, even with Beatrice's cloak, which he had taken on his way out and wrapped around himself. Yet he had become so absorbed in his thoughts that by the time he realised how cold he was, the stars had all but gone, a glow was spreading on the horizon, and the first notes of birdsong were emerging from the dimness.

He rose slowly to his feet, regretting having stayed out so long. He was in good health, but it had taken a while to shake off his last fever and he did not wish it to re...