The Buried Giant, Introduction and Post #1

Picture 153b.jpg
I took this picture in Grapeland, Texas, in 2008, and added layers for the effect.

Welcome to the discussion of The Buried Giant.

This post includes an introduction to the book without spoilers, and the discussion of chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 included.

The second post will discuss chapter 5 till the end of Part I, and all Part II. The third and last will be all Part III until the end of the book, and we’ll talk about the whole book too.

Ready?

I am.

This is my second time with this book, and I’m going to be careful to give you all an introduction without spoilers.

The Buried Giant was published in March 2015. I read it very close to its publication. This book presented me with more innovations and a very daring setting for some of his well known topics.

This book shows Ishiguro’s Brittishness, I believe. Or maybe just his love for the Arthurian world, for legends. As I relate everything to Don Quijote, it was interesting to me to see how Cervantes revolutionized the history of the novel, by writing a novel about a common man who reads chivalry books, instead of writing one of those romances. A book that talks about those reading the romances, a book that is not another romance, but that contains romances. Such as when Velazquez painted Las Meninas, and painted a painter painting a picture, instead of just a picture. Centuries later, we have Ishiguro travelling back in time, not only in the setting he chose, but in his technique. The Buried Giant feels like an old legend, but it also feels modern in a good sense.

Context. If we don’t have it, it’s probable we don’t have anywhere to hold and to like this book. We may have it, and still find it difficult to take to it. Where does that factor that will make us love or loath a book such as this reside? Hard to tell. I believe that those who grew up loving Arthur, legends, and those at ease with undefined and ambiguous settings, the nostalgic, the ones who love to wander and wonder, will do well with it. It was not love at first sight for me. But, as I age, and as I read books a second time, I’m being rewarded with this protracted effect. This second time, the book rooted deeper. I felt the rush of being familiar with Beatrice, Axl, and the rest, and I caught on much more than the first time, when I desperately wanted to get to the last page to have many answers to the questions I kept asking through the book.

This second time, it wasn’t so much about what Ishiguro could tell me, the questions he could satisfy with answers, but all that the book stirred in me. Looking back now I’ve closed it, it’s quite amazing all the links to our collective knowledge and imagination we have as readers he’s planted in the book, (resonances with other books such as Princess and the Goblins, myths and legends, fairy tales, ties with his own other books, :), with the mentioned Arthurian legends.), his books cause an avalanche in my mind as I close the last page. His books are as much or more delightful to be discussed, as they are to be read.

***End of the introduction.

Just in the first page, Ishiguro tells us how we should read the book, or how the people at that time lived. They are at a time of monsters and ogres, but they are not too worried about those, since those things in life pertaining to their survival keep them occupied. Sometimes an ogre takes a child, but they are philosophical about it, Ishiguro tells us. They don’t have control over that, so they accept it.

We meet Beatrice and Axl, an old married couple, and the village they live in. We soon know about the problems they have remembering. Beatrice wants to leave the village and go to their son’s village to see him. The journey will be a dangerous one, since they don’t seem to know very well were they are going. We learn that Saxons and Britons live in a precarious peace. Beatrice and Axl are Britons, and whenever they cross or stop by a Saxon village, they don’t know what they may encounter.

Before they leave though, there’s already an ambiguous recollection of this couple’s situation or status in the village. Are they respected, or ousted? Their conversations also show us a couple of confused persons that have troubles remembering the past, or even interpreting the present.

This second time, I even thought if this book had not the idea of what happens to us all when we reach an old age. If we are that which we can remember of our life, what happens when others, our spouse, can’t remember much of our life together, whether we have loved each other or not, do we then disappear as individuals?

We have the incident with the candle, (which represents light, clarity), which was also given to Beatrice by the children of the village, but their leader doesn’t allow them to keep it. The mysterious lady with curative powers. The confusion on what’s real and dreamed of. Finally, they set up on their journey.

Both times though, there was this passage I remembered well. Once they start to walk, Ishiguro paints a tender picture of this couple. Axl goes after Beatrice. The explanation of why this is, surprised me. Ishiguro says that if any danger comes upon them from their back, Axl would be there to protect Beatrice from such, (instead of continuing unaware of her falling into a snare, or being assaulted in the night from behind.) It’s so tender, the way Axl is always asking Beatrice, “are you alright, Princess?”

They get to a villa in ruins, and there, in a building, they meet with a boatsman and an old lady. This encounter felt very Greek to me, the boatsman, the river, crossing it together only if you can prove love for each other. The old lady is such an ugly or mean person, but she instills doubts on Beatrice and Axl about the nature of the boatsman, -who seemed to be friendly and fair. She claims to have been cheated by him, and unable to cross the river with her husband. She is also being cruel to a rabbit she says she’s bringing to him as an offering, -which she meant to offer once but now she’s doing every night in which looks like a curse. The whole scene mysterious and also crude.

Back on their journey, they arrive at a Saxon village. There is an atmosphere of uncertainty. Not only are they strangers, who speak a different language, (Briton), but there’s threats in the village that make the inhabitants hostile. The villagers are keeping vigilance expecting the attack of a monster that has taken a boy from them. Axl and Beatrice are threading dangerous waters. They meet a man called Ivor, who is a Briton married to a Saxon and speaks the couple’s language. A warrior of the village that confides in them that the man in their posts forget what they are doing there, and sometimes even abandon the posts. Exchanging thoughts, they both say how this forgetting things is happening in both their villages. Ivor tells them he and his wife blame this forgetting of things on the midst.

Axl notices his wife limps. She seems to be in pain, -the hip or leg. He suggest they go to see a monk called Jonus who is told to know how to heal people. Ivor tells them Jonus lives in Querig’s country. Querig is a she-dragon, but Ivor explains that she lives in the mountains and she’s rarely a threat, and he complains that it’s a pity she remains unslained, although there’s an old knight from the times of Arthur committed to do the task, but who has not given the beast a moment of anxiety. Here it comes my favorite passage of this first part. Talking about the cause of the midst that impedes them to remember, Ivor tells Axl about his exchange with a stranger that morning:

…Our strange affliction interested him greatly, and he questioned me again and again on the matter. And then he ventured something I dismissed at the time, but have since much pondered. The stranger thought it may be God himself had forgotten much from our pasts, events far distant, events of the same day. And if a thing is not in God’s mind, then what chance of it remaining in those of mortal men?”

Beatrice stared at him. “Can such a thing be possible, Ivor? We’re each of us his dear child. Would God really forget what we have done and what’s happened to us?”

“My question exactly, Mistress Beatrice, and the stranger could offer no answer.

In the meantime, a village warrior finds the boy that had been snatched by a monster, but as soon as he brings the boy back, the villagers seem to also forget about the incident, and the boy is strangely received, with some coldness, remarks Beatrice, that makes her feel something is amiss.

The warrior meets the couple, and there’s another tense exchange between him and Axl, -the way Wistan, the warrior, scrutinizes Axl. Eventually, Axl tells him about their plans to visit their son in his village. Wistan tells them about the boy and what happened last night among the villagers (when Beatrice and Axl were nearly assaulted.) The boy returned, but he has a bite. The superstitions people have make them uneasy about the boy. Beatrice asks Axl if the midst maybe that God is upset with them, or maybe ashamed of something they did in the past?

“What on this earth could we have done to make God so ashamed?

“I don’t know, Axl. But it’s surely not something you and I ever did, for he’s always loved us well. If we were to pray to him, pray and ask for him to remember at least a few of the things most precious to us, who knows, he may hear and grant us our wish.”

Chapter four ends with Beatrice and Axl, the boy, Edwin, and Wistan, the warrior, sojourning together. The couple to find their son’s village, and Wistan trying to find a community where to leave Edwin.

This first third of the book is packed with events, full of riddles and double meanings, and I experienced some confusion myself, such as Beatrice and Axl. The tone is one of sadness, of memories lost, time gone too fast. I felt a pang of pain for this couple who, late in life, and with physical limitations, feel compelled to set up on a difficult journey in search of closure, of answers.

17 thoughts on “The Buried Giant, Introduction and Post #1

  1. I just bought this, seeing your post. Timing is everything. I just finished Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales (whew, thank goodness, but I had to know what happened to Uhtred) so this will be exactly what I need. I’ll get it Saturday and catch up!!

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  2. Silvia!!!!

    I have been so busy the last couple weeks, and then this morning I thought, “hmmm, I better check to see if TBG talk has begun yet.” I should have put it on my calendar.

    I’m hoping I will have some time this afternoon or tomorrow to come talk with you. This was such a great first post. Touched on so many important things and has given me a lot to think about. I appreciate the way you have focused the first part for us.

    Just waiting at church for a rehearsal to begin, but I will be back soon!

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  3. Before getting too much into the plot, I would love to start by talking a bit about the characters and also the form of this book.

    Silvia said, “As I relate everything to Don Quijote, it was interesting to me to see how Cervantes revolutionized the history of the novel, by writing a novel about a common man who reads chivalry books, instead of writing one of those romances. A book that talks about those reading the romances, a book that is not another romance, but that contains romances. “

    I’m so glad that you mentioned this. It adds more depth to what I saw in the opening pages. It struck me that when KI introduces his main characters, he tells us that Axl and Beatrice may not have been their exact names, but that is how he will refer to them. I believe that Angelina Stanford has said that medieval stories move from the hero to the everyman. So we no longer have an Odysseus or an Aeneas – very particular men with a particular story – a hero that we can admire, but one whose circumstances are unique to them. With medieval literature we see characters whose names are general and stand for something, and we are able to put ourselves in their shoes.(I didn’t say it half so eloquently as she does, and maybe didn’t get it exactly right, but you get the idea). This is why too all the characters seem a little generic. It’s not that KI just doesn’t know how to write characters of depth. These somewhat flat characters are characteristic of the genre, and I think there is a lot to admire in the fact that his characters are so general and yet I feel deeply tied to them. He manages to endow them with so much depth while not making them individual. So Axl and Beatrice are not unique heroes; they represent the common man, but, their names are packed with meaning. Beatrice was obvious to me, and when I first read it, I thought, I should really stop and find out if there is any significance to Axl’s name, but I was lazy and wanted to keep reading. I just looked it up today and regret not doing so sooner.

    Beatrice conjurs up Dante’s and Shakespeare’s Beatrices. I think KI intends us to connect to Dante. She is his perfect woman. Her name means she who brings joy/makes happy. Allegorically, she is a representation of spiritual love and faith. I love how Axl cherishes her. She is a simple peasant woman, at least as far as we know, but he calls her Princess. He gives her a royal title. Of course medieveal literature is replete with princesses, and giving her this title is perhaps significant in ways beyond his affection for her. Not sure yet.

    Axl, wow, did I get excited when I finally looked the name up! Axl means Father of Peace. It seems significant that he represents peace while Beatrice represents joy, love and faith. They are both symbols of great virtue. BUT, Axl is the German and Scandinavian form of Absalom!!! Woah!!! So my big question right now is: how much is Axl like the Biblical Absalom? Has he avenged the rape of someone he loves? Beatrice? Or was it something less noble….like leading a revolt? Like usurping a throne? Maybe?? There have been subtle signs that there is something in Axl’s past – something possibly violent or ignoble. We know that they are in a time of precarious peace after a war. Bad things happened, but they don’t remember. What is in Axl’s past? I do believe him to be an honorable man, but there is something foreboding, and even he senses it. (I am partway through Part 2, and I think this ominous feeling starts coming out more in the reading for next week. I don’t remember for sure). I am really excited to see where this discovery leads!

    So the couple is isolated and on the fringe of their community where everything is communally owned. KI also tells us that they are “less protected from the elements and hardly benefited from the fire in the Great Chamber.” But unlike most of their neighbors, they have a door. They are in the cold – far from warmth and light. As Silvia mentioned, on top of being far from the communal fire, their candle was taken from them. I get the sense that they only have each other. They aren’t really part of the community, yet they can’t leave without permission. The fact that they have a door closes them off further from the community. Why are they ostracized? Why was their candle taken? It seems clear that the community is punishing them for something, but then I also have to ask if they are truly being shunned or are things just being remembered incorrectly. I think it is the former, but we have an incredible amount of ambiguity. I think KI is a reliable narrator. He seems to be telling a straightforward story, but the memory of the characters is so unreliable that we don’t have a whole lot of steady ground.

    Silvia: “We have the incident with the candle, (which represents light, clarity), which was also given to Beatrice by the children of the village, but their leader doesn’t allow them to keep it. The mysterious lady with curative powers. The confusion on what’s real and dreamed of. Finally, they set up on their journey.”

    It’s interesting that the children are bestowing the light and their pastor is the one to take it. The innocents have light to give but the man of God put the couple into darkness. Wow.

    There are so many mysterious women introduced early on. Any ideas about that? Beatrice often talks to them alone while Axl waits a ways off. I want to talk about that, but I don’t have time for it all right now.

    I also think it’s interesting in a book about forgotten memories, the first several pages of the story are a series of flashbacks. I also noticed that Axl went outside the burrow to think. It seemed to bring some amount of clarity to him. Is the community toxic? Is it a very good thing for them to be setting off and getting away from this place?

    I’ve got to come back later to write some more, but I will add a couple more questions and observations before I go.

    Why is The Great Plain dangerous? What happened there? Is it an old battlefield. They are very frightened to cross it. Why do they need to do it at a certain time of day? Is it superstition? Is it a serious threat? Beatrice said that when she was young it was the old women who were superstitious, but now as she has grown old, it is the young women. So Beatrice doesn’t believe herself to be superstitious. Is she? Is the Great Plain the site of a terrible battle? Is there now some terrible power or curse on it? Who/what is the Buried Giant, anyway? Does the danger of the plain have to do with what is buried there? Is memory buried there?

    And the other thing: I started noticing that plants and trees seem important in this story. And then I realized, oh yeah, there is even a tree on the cover of my paper back. So, yeah, I guess that means something important. On page 13 Axl is walking along a river and the path was overhung with willows. Willows represent balance, growth and harmony. Celtic tradition links the tree with psychic ability and inspired imagination. “The Celts understood that the willow was instrumental in bringing about psychic visions that produced a clearer understanding of the world in which they lived. Seems pretty significant, no? Especially considering that Axl seems the main rememberer so far. On the same page, he pushes his way through juniper bushes when he hears the raised voices of the women. Juniper is a symbol of fertility and angelic presence. It’s noted that these women are still of childbearing age, but angelic? The tree that Edwin climbs into as a lookout is an Elm which is a symbol of strength. Celtic myth again – it’s a symbol of the underworld. I don’t know if KI intends to reference Celtic tradition in a book about Britons and Saxons, but if he does, this is the second time – that I’ve noticed, maybe there’s more – that there is a reference to the underworld. The other being the boatman. (I definitely want to get to that scene. What you wrote about it was brilliant, Silvia). In fact, as I read a bit more, it was an elm that sprung up at the spot where Orpheus played his harp when he rescued Eurydice. There is so much more about elm trees, but I’m just sort of skimming at this point because I need to finish up. I’m pretty sure the underworld/death is of great significance in this book, but I’m not sure how. And then in chapter 5 – I know we haven’t gotten there yet – there is a spreading oak in the center of a large clearing with a significant individual resting there. It’s typically a symbol of strength and survival. Again from the Celts: “The oak is considered a cosmic storehouse of wisdom embodied within its towering strength. Ancient Celts observed the oak’s massive growth and impressive expanse. They took this as a clear sign that the oak was to be honored for its endurance, and noble presence.” I also read that it provides protection to the leaders and warriors. The Celts “saw this tree as representing the ultimate in hospitality and safety, as well as a mystical symbol of truth and bravery. In this setting the Oak stood as a firm reminder that humankind has the ability to overcome all odds as well as a tremendous capacity for kindness even to strangers whose path we cross.” Fascinating, considering the man they meet there and the scene that plays out. I wish I could talk about it more, but I don’t want to give spoilers to anyone who hasn’t read that far. There were probably other trees mentioned that I don’t remember. Oh, there was that memory of when Beatrice and Axl met, with the ominous plant. She couldn’t remember why it was dangerous to maidens. Or was that in next week’s reading. At any rate, I really need to wrap this up, so one very, very last thing, since I noted the tree on my cover:

    I believe on the hardcover there is a picture of a chalice, and that makes me think of the Holy Grail which of course is important in Arthurian legend. I haven’t come upon a chalice in the book, but I’m certainly going to be watching for any mention. Perhaps it’s significant that the Holy Grail may show up in a story where memory is lost. (And maybe it won’t). Lost memory is so much loss of self which is so much death, while the Grail gives everlasting life. Although I have to ask the question, is this everlasting life a good thing to attain or are there consequences? I know I am totally getting ahead of myself and guessing in the dark, but sometimes I just gotta follow my instincts down a rabbit hole.

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  4. Quick question regarding what I said yesterday about medieval literature moving toward the Everyman: I see that in fairy tale and folklore, but what about Arthurian legend? Don’t people like Arthur and Lancelot and Gawain and Galahad have more in common with the ancient heroes than with Little Red Riding Hood or Cinderella?

    I’m really not very knowledgeable about form. In this book, the important thing is that A and B are the Everyman and we can put ourselves in their shoes as they move through their quest, but I’d like to understand more about the distinctions of medieval literature and what it means to be a hero. Anybody have insights on this? I’m afraid to start digging to much online or I will follow one thing after another and never get the book read!

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    1. I like what you see on the names. I thought about that. First, the book as a whole, seems Arthurian, but Gawain is the only more specific name we find, and Arthur is barely mentioned, just towards the end. I’m taking this as a book with Arthurian nostalgia, and with everyday people as our main characters, that seem to have been part of an important era. And I like how you put that, that duplicity, we don’t know if that era was noble or ignominious, or both, ha ha ha.

      I never know if to call KI unreliable or reliable. Like you said, it seems that he as the narrator is reliable, while his characters bring that fogginess to the story, -since this is about them not being able to remember-.

      About what it means to be a hero. I found a lot about that in Meditations on Don Quixote, by Ortega y Gasset. I’ve read it 3 times, yet I won’t be able to explain this well. This short book has a few chapters precisely about how the novel and characters changed from the time of Homer and the Greeks, Medieval, Renaissance, and the arrival of modern novel as we know it. But I remember what you say about the heroes being unique. He says that too, there can’t be another Oedipus, or another Medea. We can’t extrapolate their stories either. They have a different purpose too, a different way of understanding life and man. When we come to Don Quixote, he said the people are common in the sense we can be any and all of those in the book, the story, were we to live it, would be vulgar. (What’s up with two guys at an inn, one crazy the other stupid, and the commonality and vulgarity of the situation are off putting. Think about your day. What’s up with driving to do groceries, for example, and at the stop, seeing some unfortunate beggars, some maybe acting crazy, -talking to themselves, etc. And yet many modern novels have common topics or plain plots, actually, in most literature, not much happens, plot can be boiled down to a few sentences, -aka, Jane Austen.

      The uniqueness, the importance of the modern novel, it’s HOW that story is told. Written language elevates something that’s in most cases deeply boring. In Homer, the language was the ‘poetic’ language, the descriptions and expressions, the ones expected in poetry read aloud, it’s the uniqueness of the people involved, and their unique fates what captivates us and it’s told and retold over and over. I totally get it. When I retell a scene of Don Quixote, it looses all its power. It’s entertaining, but it doesn’t rip me into stitches from laughter or tears me up with pain, woe, and emotion as when I read it. But retellings of the stories in mythology, Greek plays, Homer, Arthurian legends, even when sloppy, they seem intriguing, unique, magical. As Ortega says, Achilles is not temporal, he is as removed from us in this century as it already was removed from the Romans.

      ***

      About your first comment. I do know plants and their significance create that atmosphere in the book. I love all the research you do when we read together. It adds to my experience, (even in retrospect.)

      I loved what you said about the Great Plain and danger. It’s being exposed. It may be as you say, an old battlefield, or a burial place, or both? Leaving the community and traversing the land is a danger. But in this couple’s case, would the danger of staying ‘safe’ in their community at the risk of forgetting who they were, and who they are, bigger than their risk of traveling to an uncertain destination? I always think about rabbits on a plain, being at the risk of death by different predators. If you think about this, traveling through a territory not long after a war, when there’s a fragile peace, can mean either leaving your land and community where you’ve been victim, trying to achieve a safe destination because you were a traitor and at risk in your community, or maybe reuniting with others you were separated from at those times of war. And peace was as fragile as the one after our Civil War, or after WWI, and WWII wars, etc.

      After what you wrote, I wish someone would ask Ishiguro that question. I don’t believe their names, Axl and Beatrice, were just good sounding to him. Beatrice, ‘common and yet a princess’. Same with the few and premeditated incursions of plants and trees. (I also was thinking what was up with that plant dangerous to maidens, and why Axl doesn’t care much about that and thinks it to be superstitious.)

      I believe the author keeps two layers of thought with this book, one would be a not too defined but nor stream of conscious story either, with some reminiscence to the past and an Arthurian/Medieval/foggy flair, ha ha ha. The other would be the thread that keeps us thinking about memory, life as a journey, love, community, ostracism, loyalty, the meaning of our existence, illness, death… and specially, what makes us who we are, what’s the nature of love, and what’s peace, can it be achieved?, how do we live and move in the present, so fragile on top of that unresolved past.

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      1. Arthurian nostalgia – that’s good. I know that KI isn’t trying to write a new Arthur tale, and that it’s more of the back drop of the story, but I’m guessing that we need to have a good understanding of Arthurian legend to really appreciate what he is doing here. Makes me want to reread some tales. I know I’m missing things.

        Would you say this book is a good introduction to KI? Or because this book is a departure, genre wise, would it be more illuminating to have a prior relationship with him? I guess I ask because you said that you never know whether to call him reliable or unreliable. I am reading this as a rather honest telling on the part of the narrator – like most old tales seem to be – and it’s not the narrator’s fault that his characters are disoriented and lacking self knowledge…and not just self knowledge….all kinds of knowledge. They are so in the dark. Would you consider him somewhat unreliable in most of his works? If you do, and if I had read his other books, I probably wouldn’t trust him as much in this story. I don’t know. So, is this a medieval novel or is it still modern through and through despite the setting…or is it both. I think I accept subconsciously that there are modern elements, but I’m reading it medieval.

        Would that Gasset book be valuable to someone – like me, ahem – who hasn’t read DQ? I know the overarching plot, mostly because of The Man of LaMancha musical, but I don’t know how faithful that is to the book. It sounds like a good one. I don’t read nearly enough ABOUT reading. I have probably said it before.

        So the modern novel is more about the interior life, right? That’s why, sometimes, not much happens. This journey story is going to profoundly change Beatrice and Axl, I suspect, whereas I wouldn’t say that Odysseus changes much through the course of his journey. That wasn’t Homer’s concern in telling that tale. So to answer my own question, at the point, not having finished the book, I would say we should approach it as both. We need to be aware of the elements of medieval lit, but we also need to remember that KI has modern sensibilities that will permeate the story.

        Unintended tangent….moving on…..

        “Leaving the community and traversing the land is a danger. But in this couple’s case, would the danger of staying ‘safe’ in their community at the risk of forgetting who they were, and who they are, bigger than their risk of traveling to an uncertain destination?”

        This is such a great question to voice. It’s the one that is sorta at the foundation of the whole thing. The one you can easily accept without taking the time to acknowledge that it is there. The answer has to be yes, not just so we have a story to read, but because as human beings – at least in my personal experience – it is so much easier to try to stay safe, and there can be great loss of self when a person chooses to avoid risk. We cannot reach the heights of being human when we choose self-protection. I think A and B are journeying not to their son, primarily, but to themselves. They are on a quest to find out who they are and reclaim what was taken from them. And I think it’s going to be hard. I am bracing myself for something tragic.

        Speaking of their son – you know how the story turns out, so I know you can’t say too much, but it’s a constant question. Who is he? Does he even remember them? They frequently say that he is waiting for them – he’s anxious to see them – but he doesn’t know they’re coming. Why should he expect them? Is it just that parents must find their children and vice versa? They assume he knows? Or are they full of self-deception? Do they even know that he is at this village they are travelling to or are they just in a confusion of broken memories?

        Then we have Edwin who says his mother was taken – so many missing children or mothers – and somehow he feels that he is supposed to rescue her. He hears her speaking to him, and there was that strange scene in the barn before he escapes his village. Is it really his mother’s voice he hears? I just finished Part 2 this morning, and knowing more about his wound, I am wondering if it is in fact a different voice he’s hearing.

        I have so many questions. How many answers will I have by the time I reach the end? 🙂 Part of me wants to race through the rest to understand, but I truly wonder how many answers he will give us.

        I love your last paragraph. I can’t wait to finish so I can talk about those themes with a little more clarity. I greatly fear dementia. I have said to God before, please, I don’t care what else happens to me, please don’t ever take my mind. And I can’t bargain with God, I know. And I know all the correct theological answers. But of all things, that is horrifying to me. It’s horrifying because if we forget ourselves and our loved ones, what are we? Who are we? Yes, we are still the same soul that will be redeemed and made new and whole someday, so our worth doesn’t change, but everything else does. And as Christians we at least have a better answer than everyone else because we can say that despite our forgetting, we are God’s child, and somehow in the loss of self we are still us. So, I love the questions he raises regarding memory. Who are we with the people in our lives if we have no memory of who we once were together? On a larger scale, who are we as a culture if we forget the past? What happens when we bury memories of past atrocities? I’m pretty sure that has happened in our story. It’s easier sometimes to live in oblivion because the other choice can be so painful, but how much of our humanity is lost in that oblivion?

        Does that scene with the plant dangerous to maidens ever come into better focus or is that the only mention of it in the book?

        I hope tomorrow I will have time to come back and talk about a couple other key scenes – especially Edwin. There’s a lot of stuff there!

        Who else is reading along and hasn’t had time to comment yet? 🙂

        I want to get to week three so we will all be on the same page and you can talk freely without worrying about spoilers! It’s gotta be hard knowing how things turn out when everyone else is muddling through!

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  5. Oh, and we gotta talk about God. That passage you quoted about God being ashamed – woah, yeah that was powerful. We get a lot more in Part 2 with the monastery, so I would love if we could focus on the God questions next week!

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  6. Arthurian theme. (I know I don’t have the foundation to appreciate this as much as others who drank from this in childhood or at an early age. I’ve seen some reviewers at Goodreads for which this book had a powerful taste of familiarity, a trip back in time.)

    Is this a good introduction to KI? I wouldn’t know. This is his most recent and imo his most different, yet he has his own recognizable style and preferred themes he usually writes about. (I think the unreliability rests more on the side of the characters, but his is a style of blending what happens out there with the inner conscience of the character or characters. Maybe it’s not so much unreliability as a deliberate lack of explanation of the facts. He’s more on the subjective than the objective territory.

    Answers. There’ll be answers, 🙂 I won’t tell you if to your questions or others, but expect many more questions too. That’s also something that always happens with his books. There are more hints than round answers. Not everything remains uncertain, but there’s not a perfect rounded explanation of everything we witness.

    I also agree with you when you say this is a journey to themselves. Absolutely. I also like what you say about how choosing to stay safe, avoiding exposure, it’s could be more dangerous if it means stagnation. Growth requires going to the open, A and B did that physically, but it can be seen as emotionally and spiritually being honest, opening up to the truth. Same with oblivion. It’s certainly easier, until we realize it’s NOT.

    I don’t see anyone else joining this conversation. But for me, your company is priceless. (Maybe in time others will show up, or at the last post, when we can discuss the book in its entirety).

    Edwin. Same here. Is it his mom’s voice, or something else? (That bite is something strange, a bite, a wound, it’s a way to wake up, and also a way of an animal or beast to contaminate us or introduce its venom in us, right?)

    Something so beautiful and honest what you’ve shared about dementia. I’m with you. If not a christian, it’ll be for me impossible to go through the hardships of life, the present ones, and those we don’t know will come. Living without our memories it’s the closest to living dead I can think of. Yet when we believe in life after this physical life and its consequent death, even if we suffer that fate, that won’t be our final state, and we’ll still have our identity, preserved the moment we decided to adopt and reclaim our original identity as His children that we renounced when we sin.

    I’m not sure if the dangerous to maidens plant is mentioned. I think there’s a couple of mentions of the plants, and that they were dangerous, but nothing conclusive or specific, -typical KI.

    And yes on talking about God!

    Thanks for being so generous with the book talk.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been busy with celebrating my eldest’s birthday the last couple days. Hoping to have some time this weekend to think about what you’ve written on week 2. Tomorrow night I am throwing a little dinner party for my sister who is getting married in a couple weeks. Everyone gave me money to buy her and her fiance lots of beautiful things to stock their kitchen, and I am so proud of myself – I just finished wrapping all of it tonight. That’s not my style; usually I’d be throwing it all together an hour before. Yay! Anyway….I’m so tired. I was going to try to put some thoughts together on the book, but now that I’m hear….I realize how fried my brain is. We were supposed to go to Shakespeare in the Park tonight, but it’s a humid 93 degrees in WI with a heat index of 105. That might not sound too bad to a TX gal, but ugh, it’s so hot, and we were out all day doing birthday stuff, so alas, we are missing it tonight. It was the right decision, but I am bummed. Hopefully we will catch it before the summer is out. It’s a troupe that travels to a number of WI state parks, so while this one was 15 mintues away at a great venue, we might be able to make it to one less than an hour away later in the summer. Anyway….enough of all that…

      I liked what you said about Edwin’s wound – that it could represent a waking up. I’ve only thought about it in the context of a violation and, like you said, a contamination. Hmm. I was going to say more, but I realize that it is in week 2, so I will jump over there soon, just so I don’t give spoilers here on week 1.

      I would like to know more about dragons. I am running into a lot of celtic wisdom/myth when I look up the plants mentioned in the book, and I’m confident at this point that KI was very intentional about the plants and trees that he mentions and their Celtic ties. So, I wonder if the type of dragon he has in mind is one influenced by the Celts, and if so, what does that exactly mean compared to the British dragons we think of – the foremost being the one Saint George fought. Does dragon = Satan in this book? It is stealing memories, yes. It seems insidious. We’ve got a knight here who is charged with killing it and that reinforces (what I think to be the) British version of a dragon. But I just don’t know that much about dragons! The Celts have the symbol of the dragon eating it’s tail which is a symbol of eternal life. They apparently believed that dragons guarded both the gates to Heaven and the Underworld. That might be a tie-in with some of the book’s themes. The same website says that the Anglo-Saxon word for dragon is derived from the Greek word meaning “to see clearly.” Pretty interesting considering the mist that Querig creates. Even her name – I think it’s meant to call up the word “query.” Maybe?

      You’re still planning on East of Eden in a couple weeks? If so, I better get reading! I don’t know if you’ve finished it, but I can’t wait to hear what you think!

      Be back soon! I love talking about books with you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am loving East of Eden, but I won’t be able to do the book club discussion on it that I wanted. This summer has come with so many unexpected challenges, I will be flying to Spain to see my mom in two Mondays, and stay for two weeks, so, no time for book club. In time, I may write a post and encourage some talk on this amazing book. I do truly love it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. With everything going on with your mom, that was my suspicion. I will continue to pray for her health and also your travels and your time with her. We will talk about East of Eden some day. I’ve been looking forward to reading it again. It’s been 15 years since I read it and 3 or 4 since I listened to it. But I think I will put it back on the shelf for now. I still have Anna K sitting here half read. Once I’m done with TBG, I gotta devote some serious time to that before starting more literature. I would have made time for E of E with you, because it is my favorite and because I truly enjoy talking about books with you and your friends, but it is probably better for me to focus on the books I already have in progress. It is also my goal to read Karen Glass’s new book before the school year starts again. I am so surprised it is already July! It makes me feel a little panicky!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I chose to take a nap this afternoon instead of writing about part 2 of TBG. I have all day at home tomorrow, so hopefully that will translate to lots of time to read and write! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, and yes to that comment about modern novels focused on the interior changes. The Meditations on Quixote is not a book about Don Quixote at all. It’s a series of essays about perception, worldview, about the Mediterranean culture versus the Germanic one, the history and changes of literature, epics, and then Medieval, Modern… whatever he mentions about DQ one doesn’t need to have read the book to understand. You can substitute it for another modern novel, (actually, he mentions other books and authors himself.)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So I finished part 1 and started on Ch. 6 last week, then…baseball. I’m going to read through all these comments and hopefully I’ll add to it sooner than later.

    BUT.

    I love this book!! I don’t know if anyone has said who Axl really is yet but my skin was tingling last Thursday night when he first encountered Wistan. Anyway. Silvia, such a great call for a book discussion, I am loving it. I can’t wait to read all these but we got in late late last night and have house guests until Thursday. I’ll be back!! Ciao!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ooh, Karen, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Axl. I’ve wondered a lot about him, but I still haven’t come to any conclusion. I wonder if we had the same suspicion in the scene you are referring to. If so, I’ve gone back and forth on it a lot.

      I agree that this is a great pick for a book discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

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