The Buried Giant, Post #2

DSC_0399b.pngWelcome to WEEK 2, where we’ll discuss CHAPTER FIVE TO END OF PART II


You should know that I’ve written the 3 posts for this book club in advance, so I have no clue about whatever was discussed last week, -if there was nice participation, or it was a solitary post-. In any case, I love this book so much as to be happy about writing about it in 3 installments.

Chapter 5 is the last of Part I. In it, the group will cross a bridge with several soldiers. Wistan alerts Axl and Beatrice to play the dumb and deaf card, avoiding being recognized as enemies and a threat. They make a narrow escape. But one of the soldiers comes back to inspect the suspicious group. Master Wistan will end up killing him in a duel, -even though the soldier realizes the group has noble intentions. Leaving him alive will jeopardize their journey. (It’s his duty to alert of the passing of these strangers and enemies through their territory).

As Wistan is cleaning the sword from the killing of the soldier, he informs Axl that though his Saxon kin live in harmony with them, Britons, it’s true that they have reports at home of Lord Brennus’s ambitions to conquer this land for himself and make war on all Saxons now living on it. Sir Gawain confirms he has heard the same reports. He fears Lord Brennus will be the one to undo the great peace won by Arthur. They even say, Wistan continues, that Brennus intends to capture Querig, the she-dragon, to fight in the ranks of his army. That’s why he, Wistan, has been sent to destroy the dragon before it falls into the hands of Lord Brennus. Gawain is aghast. He remembers times of war too, with a dragon in the opposing army, and he is sure nothing good can come of this scheme by Lord Brennus. Gawain offers to return the horse of the fallen soldier to the camp, and tell them the man was assaulted by bandits and died. He also turns to Wistan and assures him he’ll redouble the efforts to slay Querig.

Part II.

The group makes it to the monastery where Axl wants brother Jonus to look at Beatrice and her ailments. This part was my favorite. Monks. Aww. It reminds me of two dear books, The Name of the Rose, and A Canticle for Leibowitz, and Alyosa in  and . I just adore to visit the monasteries, the secrecy, the different monks and the dynamics. Axl and Beatrice meet with Father Brian and an out of control Irasmus, throwing stones to the birds and shouting “devils, devils”.

Wistan talks to Gawain about Lord Brennus not believing the story about the soldier, but Gawain reassures him he will. This soldier’s death upsets Beatrice, and triggers memories in Axl. We start to see signs that Axl may have been a warrior himself in the past. He has some connection or understanding of the grey-hair soldier, as if he had known him, or known he was on his side. Master Wistan seems to be suspicious of the monks. They have seen horses, maybe secret visitors. But Axl says it may just be their own conferences and things. But Wistan insists he’s heard groans as coming from a man in pain, and reports that Edwin, (the boy) saw marks of blood fresh and old at the quarters were the groaning came from. Axl tries to calm Wistan’s suspicions, but Wistan recalls a time of war, when the monastery was a fortification, and how they devised a trap for the enemy were men got caught and were killed. Axl keeps arguing for a gentler purpose, he thinks good of the monks, while Wistan has this interpretation of a hidden violent nature of the monks.

Finally, they go to see Jonus. Wistan says they want him to see Beatrice alone, that the boy’s wound is clean. But Beatrice tells him not to be so sure, for a clean wound can turn feverish any moment.

Brother Jonus doesn’t believe that Wistan is a shepherd as he claims, (Wistan is disguising his warrior true nature.) Wistan is bold enough to tell Jonus about the device in the monks’s barn. What do you make of it?, Jonus asks, it angers me, Wistan replies. Jonus, in his conversation with Wistan, says as much as that there’s two different sides at the monastery, those who, like the abbot, want to carry on as always, (with their secret practice of taking care of things), and those like him, Jonus, who want to uncover what’s been hidden and face the past. Wistan asks Jonus if he’s saying that he, Wistan, has friends in the monastery. Jonus says that not in the monastery, but in that very room. Jonus looks at Edwin’s wound, which takes a lot of his energy. Brother Ninian assists Jonus.

Beatrice moves on with her case, but she jumps from her sickness to the midst that is bothering her, for which she doesn’t seem to find an explanation. Jonus and Wistan exchange looks. Wistan tells Beatrice that the cause of the midst is Querig, but that the monks are protecting her. He is even sure that they must have sent word to destroy him, once they’ve uncovered his real identity (that of a Saxon warrior.) Axl daydreams, and suddenly he realizes that Wistan and the boy have left, propably Brother Ninian left with them. Jonus now finally addresses Beatrice physical ailments.  He tells her:

“So you can go to your son with nothing to fear,”

“Mistress, you seem happy to know the truth about this thing you call the mist.”

“Yet are you so certain, good mistress, you wish to be free of this mist? Is it not better some things remain hidden from our minds?”

“It may be so for some, father, but not for us. Axl and I wish to have again the happy moments we shared together: To be robbed of them is as if a thief came in the night and took what’s most precious from us.”

“Yet the mist covers all memories, the bad as well as the good. Isn’t that so, mistress?”

“We’ll have the bad ones come back too, even if they make us weep or shake with anger. For isn’t it the life we’ve shared?”

“You’ve no fear, then, of bad memories, mistress?”

“What’s to fear, father? What Axl and I feel today in our hearts for each other tells us the path taken here can hold no danger for us, no matter that the mist hides it now. It’s like a tale with a happy end, when even a child knows not to fear the twists and turns before. Axl and I would remember our life together, whatever its shape, for it’s been a thing dear to us.”

This part of The Buried Giant makes me think about my own marriage, and memories, how we make them. This past Christmas, my brother, my sister and I, had a tough conversation with my parents. It was truly revealing, and also a low blow to me, to see how my father, (and even my own siblings), did not remember the painful memories that related to me. But I also realized my siblings have harsh memories they deal with, that I have no clue about. It’s hard to look back at your life with your parents, and have a few salient memories of very painful moments, while at the same time, not having particularly many or any good memories. On the other hand, I also realized I have the power to reinvent those memories, -not lying, or pretending, but just engulfing them in something bigger in which they can have a purpose, regain positive meaning. And that’s exactly what I chose to do.

My siblings and I decided that for us there’s no other way to look at than forward. And moving forward, we all agree that we have invaluable understanding on how not to treat our family, or how not to be, which doesn’t make us perfect, but maybe a bit wiser. And we’ll take all that wisdom and experience that’s been earned the hard way. Likewise, we are three very different people, living different lives, who get along and who love each other. They with their partners, and I with my husband, have very different relationships than the one my parents have. I’m the only one with kids, and even though the teen years can at times look insurmountable, truth is our girls are very decent people, and life with them is fun and deeply rewarding.

In sync with Axl and Beatrice, we’ll take all the bad for it’s glued to the good. We rather have pain, if that means we’ll also weep of joy, rather than experience an aseptic bland existence with no memories whatsoever.

Axl makes his request known to Father Brian, of wanting to see Father Jonus, but he is unwell, receiving no visits at the time. Axl wakes up and realizes he was sleep after the questions Father Jonus raise to Beatrice. Beatrice didn’t fear Jonus’s questions about her health, (though we can all sense she probably has a serious disease, -blood in the urine-), what scared Beatrice, were the questions of the boatman in Part I, because she has no recollection of her marriage in the past, and the questions were about that. That’s why she also seems happy about the prospect of Querig being slew, which will help her regain her memory.

Suddenly, the group has to flee. Soldiers have arrived, and their lives are in peril. Father Brian leads them through narrow corridors, until they come to darkness. Brian says the soldiers wish to murder Edwin. They are at the entrance of a tunnel. Edwin tells Beatrice he’s going to aid Wistan. Beatrice seems to convince Edwin they’d help Wistan if they escape through the tunnel. But Edwin questions why Brother Brian has closed the door so quickly behind them. Though they don’t understand very well what’s happening, they continue what seems to them their escape. They encounter strange things, a man who is breathing. It’s Gawain. He can’t explain well what he was doing there before them. He claims he was there ahead, trying to defend them. Ninian brought him there, he says. Not all monks are the same. Ninian is on their side. Gawain is insinuating that the monks wish them death. He replies that they certainly wish the boy death. There’s also a beast that dwells there.

Beatrice is experiencing strange things, it seems they are stepping on bones of children, and that they may even be hearing the beast. Gawain manages to lit a candle, and they find out they are in a mausoleum, there’s also Roman letters on the walls. It doesn’t seem an ancient burial place to Axl, as Gawain claims.

They come to a portcullis, behind the bars they see a beast. It’s a ravaging dog who seems to stare at Edwin. Gawain thinks of a plan, use Edwin as a goat tied to trap a wolf, raise the portcullis, let the beast come through, and slay it when it passes. Beatrice has to climb on Axl to reach the rope that will open the portcullis when pulling on it. Beatrice ended up suspended, her weight not enough to raise the gate. then Axl tugged too, and after a while, it happened, the beast passed them and Edwin too.

They then see the head of a beast which jaws are still moving. Gawain must have killed it. They passed under the portcullis, and see the second chamber of the mausoleum, what must have been the beast’s lair. There’s suspicions among them. Beatrice tells Gawain if it wasn’t him the one to uncover Wistan’s real identity as a Saxon warrior to the abbot. Gawain dismisses her concerns and replies he’s the one leading them to safety now. Axl thanks him for his help, and asks also if it wasn’t the case they both were comrades long ago?

In the open again, Gawain goes for his horse, Horace and they part. Master Edwin also appears to have hasten back to the monastery.

We come to chapter eight, the last in part II and the one that closes this section, which takes us to a detour of sorts. It’s devoted to Edwin, who is back at the monastery, but trying to leave it and reunite with Wistan, who he thinks has hopefully escaped as they did during the night. He had to cross through the monastery. He finds Father Ninian, and without speaking, he tries to tell him if Wistan is lying there. Edwin feels he’s let Wistan down by falling asleep when he needed to be alert. He can’t explain why he slept for that long. Was it his mom calling for him in his dreams? As Edwin is walking with the young monk, leaving the monastery, he reminiscence of that day at the end of the summer when he had talked with the girl.

This is a surreal scene, he talks to the girl who is tied, but refuses Edwin offer to liberate her. she says her other companions leave her tied until they come back, and untie her. She says if they come back and find him, they’ll kill him. But he insists and unties her. At that point she urges him to leave. Edwin keeps remembering his conversation with Wistan before he let him down. How they both saw that the monks tower was once a fortification meant to escape making the enemies follow them, just to be trapped in an inside moat, then burned by throwing torches into their trapped space, while the warriors could then escape from the top of the tower by jumping through the window and into a wagon full of hay.

Back to the present, the young monk informs Edwin they are going to cross a stream, and asks him to take off his nice shoes. Edwin notices a change in the monk’s tone, he sounds curt when once he had been friendly. I’ve read When We Were Orphans, and this section here with Edwin not remembering well what’s happened reminds me of that book too, when the main character is traversing through corridors that have been bombed, (or are being bombed), where he sees soldiers hurt, someone whom he recognizes, -or not?-, and we start getting confused about many things. We don’t know anymore if the main character is victim, perpetrator, or someone just caught up in the middle of something. Likewise, Edwin remembers having been asked by Father Jonus to step outside, and hearing him discuss things with others, (about his fate), and the young monk, coming out of the room to fetch for him in a friendly way, and urge him to leave the monastery. Now he’s with Edwin again, but Edwin came back for Wistan. The young monk recalls how his brother (I assume he’s talking about Wistan), made his escape from the soldiers which came to aprehend Edwin, right?, the way he described to Edwin, (starting up a fire, and jumping from the tower.) Now the monk is not that friendly but distant. Edwing keeps thinking about his failing Wistan, but he concludes that, “If he explains it all from the start, honestly and frankly, it was possible Wistan would understand and give him another chance.”

This concludes our second section and Part II of the book. The third and last post next week, will bring us to Part III to the end.



20 thoughts on “The Buried Giant, Post #2

  1. I don’t even know where to start! My brain is buzzing and I want to talk about so many different scenes. It’s a case of “if only we could sit down over coffee.” I guess I will just start at chapter 5 and see where it takes me….

    (I realized after I started writing that I was actually looking at chapter 4. Oops. And then I go on a super big tangent about birds. Chapter 5 next time I stop by).

    So, Edwin opens the chapter….we haven’t really talked yet about Edwin. He’s a young boy, just on the cusp of young manhood. He has an interesting fate. He has lost his mother. His aunt and his village reject him because of his wound. They are fearful of him. It seems they regard him as dangerously diseased. He is a victim of the fears of those who should protect him. More than one warrior sees great potential in him. Steffa, an ancient warrior, saw “Edwin for what he was. There were other boys stronger, who might amuse themselves pinning Edwin to the ground and beating him. But it was Edwin, not any of them, who possessed a warrior’s soul.” So despite his seeming weaknesses, Steffa sees a strength in his soul that will grow him into an imposing figure. We then find that Wistan also sees a great potential in Edwin, and Edwin seems pleased to become his companion. As I read on, I have to ask the question, is Wistan merely using Edwin? Is it only when he discovers that the wound is from the bite of a dragon that he takes such interest and encourages Edwin to believe he has warrior potential? Or is there really something there? I get the sense that Edwin is a “chosen one” of some sort. He’s definitely different and at times he even appears bewitched. Is his strange behavior merely the result of his bite? Is he only valuable because of the wound? Or is there something intrinsically special about him?

    The scene in the barn (chapter 4) is the most confusing that I’ve come across in the book. What do you all make of it? I would LOVE to hear some interpretations. The voice he hears, the one he thinks is his monther’s, tells him that the stones that are being thrown at the walls are in his control. “Go round and round the wagon, Edwin. Go round and round the wagon, because you’re the mule tethered to the big wheel. Round and round, Edwin. The big wheel can only turn if you turn it, and only if you turn it can the stones keep coming.” He asks why he must do it. “Because you’re the mule, Edwin. Round and round. Those sharp cracking noises you hear. They can’t continue unless you turn the wheel…” It seems that the voice is providing him with a false sense of control. The stones are already being thrown, but the reasoning for going around the wagon is to keep the sound coming – that the thrown stones originate with Edwin. Is it just to divert his fear? I am really at a loss.

    I was trying to find the place where we are told what his wound is. I can’t, but I’m pretty confident it is in this week’s reading. So I think it is safe to reveal that it is a dragon bite. This makes me question whether it is his mother’s voice, or if perhaps it is the voice of Querig. But I still don’t understand what the scene means. There is something hypnotic about it, and I think there is significance in the mound of earth in one corner and the dead crow in the other. Not sure what the mound of earth signifies, but birds are frequently mentioned in the story – mostly crows and ravens, and their presence seems ominous.

    Speaking of birds, I looked up Brennus. It is a Gaulish name meaning Raven. There are two men in history with the name:
    • Brennus, chieftain of the Senones, a Gallic tribe originating from the modern areas of France known as Seine-et-Marne, Loiret, and Yonne; in 387 BC, in the Battle of the Allia, he led an army of Cisalpine Gauls in their attack on Rome.
    • Another Brennus was one of the leaders of the army of Gauls who attempted to invade and settle in the Greek mainland in 278 BC. After a looting spree and after managing to pass Thermopylae by encircling the Greek army and forcing it to retreat he made his way to the rich treasury at Delphibut he was defeated by the re-assembled Greek army. Brennus was heavily injured at the battle of Delphi and committed suicide there.

    Not sure what the fate of our Brennus will be, but it will be interesting to see if it lines up in anyway with either of these guys.

    And you know I just can’t help finding symbolic connections. I know that crows and ravens generally portend bad luck, but I thought I would dig a little deeper since the birds have appeared so frequently in this book. It seems that while they often have negative associations, that’s not always the case. Here is a bit of what I found that may be of interest or importance to our story:

    • “ In the world of myth, it is a bird of paradox, and something of a dark clown. Its association with playful intelligence is perhaps exceeded by its image as a bird of death.”

    • “This bird is also closely associated with power in that it stands between the worlds of the living and the dead.”

    • “Ravens are also recounted in another Welsh writing, The Red Book of Hergest, which was written in the fourteenth century, where the Ravens are said to have killed many of Arthurs attendants for killing some of their own. In Cornish folklore it is said that King Arthur never died, but rather that his soul entered into the bill of a Chough, which is a member of the Corvidae family. The red color of this birds bill and feet are thought to represent his last battle and the violence which ensued.”

    • “They will support and teach you how to deal with adversity, helping you to find your voice, speak the truth loudly, and help develop your personal power. But be careful. Those who are chosen by these wonderfully Magickal birds need to be watchful of themselves, and not become tricksters or manipulative.”

    • “ Cornwall, which is also steeped in Celtic lore, it was believed that Arthur didn’t really die, but was magically transformed into this bird. The Celts were a warlike people, and the presence of ravens on the battlefield would have been very familiar to them. The Irish goddess, Morrighan, had a number of different guises. In her aspect as bloodthirsty goddess of war, she was thought to be present on the battlefield in the form of a raven.”

    • “In Celtic mythology, a crow or raven represents Goddess Morrígan, who often appears in the form of a crow. She is the goddess of strife, battle, and sovereignty, and Celtic myths tell us that she flies over fighting warriors, guiding them throughout the course of the battle. Morrígan is also often accompanied by a large fleet of ravens and crows. So, whenever a large flock of crows or ravens are seen in flight, it is often believed that the looker is being watched over by the goddess.”

    • “Raven is also the totem of the pan-Celtic Sorceress/Goddess Morgan le Fay, who was also called the Queen of Faeries. In some tales, she is Queen of the Dubh Sidhe, or Dark Faeries, who were a race of tricksters who often took the form of ravens.”

    I’ve noted from the first chapter how many old, tattered women come in and out of this story. And they are most often mysterious or simply repulsive in an odd way. Sometimes they are even mistaken for a flock of ravens. I wonder if they are supposed to have some sort of spiritual connection to Morrigan or Morgan le Fay.

    The woman with whom Beatrice meets with at the hawthorn tree was described thus: “From a distance, at least, her cloak appeared to be made of many separate pieces of cloth stitched together, and it was now flapping in the wind, giving its owner the appearance of a great bird about the take flight.” (p 14)

    The woman at the ruined villa: “Seated on a piece of fallen masonry was a small, bird-like old woman – older than Axl and Beatrice – in a dark cloak, the hood pushed back enough to reveal her leathery features.” (p 34)

    There are birds at the monastery -in the rafters while Axl and Beatrice try to sleep. The next day, one of the monks was throwing stones at them in the courtyard and calling them agents of the devil. Then of course there is that creepy cage that the monks use as an attempt at atonement. They allow themselves to be tormented by the birds. Jonus (whose name means Dove, by the way) says “these darks crows and ravens are a sign of God’s anger. They never came before. Even last winter, though the wind made the strongest of us weep, the birds were but mischievous children…But now a new breed comes to find us, larger, bolder and with fury in their eyes. They tear at us in calm anger, no matter how we struggle or cry out.” (p 152)

    At the beginning of part 3 Gawain meets with a group of old women and he says, “what do we see but great birds perched on their rocks, and they rise as one, not to fly into the darkening sky, but towards us. Then I saw they were no birds, but old women in flapping cloaks, assembling on the path before us.” (p 206)

    There are some trees and plants that I’ve come across that have very strong feminine associations, including blackthorn which is associated with the goddess Morrigan – the one for whom the raven is a symbol. Despite the fact that most of our main characters are male, there is a very strong female presence in this book and it feels mystical and mysterious to me.

    I realize I’m using these comments to just try to catalogue and work out connections, and I’m not at the point of being able to say anything confident or concise about them. I will try to tone down my obsession and get back to the chapters NEXT TIME. I’ve been getting so caught up in the details that I hope are sign posts, and I’m neglecting talking too much about the plot and characters and themes. I will get there – even if it takes me all summer.

    The last thing I will say is that as I’m flipping pages, it caught my eye that at the top of page 197 I wrote, “I constantly feel like I don’t know who to trust in this story.” Am I the only one? Wistan? Gawain? Axl? The monks – and which ones? Seriously. I trust Beatrice, but the others? I just don’t know.

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    1. Wow, Katie, what great research you provide.
      I am amazed at how many times birds are mentioned, or women compared to them.
      Erwin seemed to me like one of the Gray House boys.
      Why is he special, I don’t know. I also thought if Wistan is using him, or what is going on. The barn… It also was strange. He is being bullied, and he’s using that to gain strength and mental stamina. I know something that has not shown up yet, I just thought about. In a few days I will be able to tell you.
      I too feel that feminine presence. And like you, I didn’t know who to trust.

      And Karen! So nice to have you here. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Axl and the book, when you get the chance, 🤗

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      1. Looking forward to what you can tell me in a couple days. I finished part 3 tonight and I have a feeling I will race through the rest. I’m so glad you suggested this book. I’ve got so many thoughts churning.

        And I like what you say about Edwin being like a Gray House boy. I wouldn’t have thought of that, but it’s right on.

        Ugh, I almost feel haunted right now. Not to be dramatic. But. Like I said, I really don’t know who to trust, but I get this deep sense that everyone is just trying to do the best they can. Like Gawain- man, so I need to spend some time talking about him! It is so interesting to see an old, worn out, Gawain. I get the sense that he is just trying his best to be a good knight, but he’s also so defensive and ready to pounce. Trying to make himself be chivalrous when he doesn’t feel it. Like he’s watching his back and is a bit resentful. Anyway, back to the hauntedness: I guess it’s just a sense that I’m not sure who the “good guys” are and I’m not sure who the “bad guys” are. It’s like they are all somehow victims of the past that they don’t remember and are just trying to make it through. Maybe there aren’t good guys and bad guys. Maybe there’s just broken people. I don’t know. I suspect some of the people we’ve met are more bad than others, but I also sense that everyone is just trying to get by.

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    2. I knew all the stuff about Brian, and ravens, and death, and Gaulish chieftains and still I didn’t make the connection with birds that you’ve brought out here, Katie. I don’t know how much Celtic myth Ishiguro has imbibed in his reading but these all seem pertinent. I shall definitely have to reread this some time — but not for quite a while!

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  2. That’s still my feeling, that of not knowing who the good guys or bad guys are. I get this overwhelming sense of defeat, old people who instead of enjoying a peaceful life and closure, are facing the awakening of new conflict, or old conflict coming back to bite them. But there’s also a strong sense of love and respect, of honor.
    In this world, people are compared to birds, and Edwin to a mule. There’s also a strange moral vacuum, not lack of principles, but lack of a moral code or judgment. Everything is ambiguous. It’s hard to explain. I don’t mean the characters are amoral, not at all, I mean we know there’s the Britons and Saxons, and we are somehow at loss to figure out who were victors or victims. They all seem to have engaged in violence, and they all seem to be victims of it.

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    1. I think I sense the same thing that you are talking about, and it is hard to explain. There is an endless cycle of violence, and how can it end? Even though they are in some sort of peace right now, what is the price they are paying for it? It’s such human nature – it reminds me of my kids: they get so easily offended by each other. One crosses the line somehow, so the other retaliates, and then the first kid feels that they now have the right to lash out because of what the other kid has done. and on and on. It drives me mad. No matter how many times we talk about the proper way to deal with an offense, they so often resort to petty retaliation. I do have faith that they will continue to mature and learn how to stand up for themselves in appropriate ways, but yeah, it reminds me of how quickly anger and violence can be perpetuated on a large scale.

      Yes, there is a lot of moral ambiguity. I think each character or people group does have principles they live by, and they believe that they are doing what is right – or at least doing the best they can. You’re right, no one is amoral as far as I can see. But some live by an ends justify the means mentality, and some are perhaps self-deceived and possibly working for the wrong “team.” The monks for instance – off the top of my head, they are probably the most morally questionable, which of course is ironic. A few of them are upright, but the rest are pretty sketchy.

      When I first read the page about the cage that the monks kept, I thought it was the same cage that Edwin had been imprisoned in by the ogres. Then I realized that it was not. The connection is interesting though. The monks are willingly torturing themselves in a manner so similar to what the ogres seem to do to their victims for sport. And the birds have grown so big and violent that they have even killed some of the monks and left others disfigured and full of pain. What exactly are they trying to atone for by exposing themselves to these birds? War crimes? The monastery was previously a military fort. The holy men (if they can be called that) have converted a place of violence into a place of pious living. But I don’t think they’ve redeemed it. Wistan sees signs of the place’s real use at every turn. Instead of the place being redeemed, I think the fort’s history bleeds into the monastery, contaminating it, more or less. They are somehow complicit in the violence of former times and they are trying to purge themselves through the birds, but instead of being purified, the birds become more and more deadly as a sign of judgement and the men are left more broken, infected. Perhaps there is an idea here with these birds that you can’t atone for violence with more violence, even self-inflicted. Your self-punishment does not undo the pain you inflicted on others.

      That was another weird scene that I should go back and reread – Edwin in the cage. Is that how you took it? That he was in fact captured by ogres and the cage was some sort of entertainment for them? Why was it constantly being dragged around? I’m not sure I’m remembering it all right.

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      1. Brilliant, Katie. I too sensed that, out of all people, the monks and their monastery is the most violent and messed up place with factions openly against each other. ( I need to revisit Edwin in the cage). This book, the more I dwell on it, the more it reminds me of The Gray House, there’s not just a linear or clear cut plot or pov. It operates at different levels, and it opens more questions than gives answers.
        And retaliation, yes. It’s as if governments operate at children’s level. Seriously, all world conflict are ancient unresolved petty disputes buried in lots of blood and injustice.
        It’s eye opening to me to see different ways of approaching this conundrum. And yes, so much is lost for them all, yeah, I feel for all the main people around our couple, and for B and A specially.
        I love what you wrote about the monastery, the birds, atonement, redemption.

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      2. Hmmm. Yeah. I wouldn’t have picked up on the similarities to TGH without you saying so, but I see it – especially in the “I don’t know who to trust” feeling that permeates the book. In both books that insecurity is created largely by pov changes and not being told the facts – having to feel around in the dark to figure out the what and why of things.

        I finished the book. Wow. I see much more clearly now, though I’m still trying to bring things together in my mind. That will take a while.

        As an Englishman, I am guessing that KI might not be directly commenting on the US – but I really don’t know because I only know him from this book. I don’t know what his religious or political concerns are. I’m guessing he’s perhaps agnostic, but I’m not sure why I feel that way. Anyway, whether he intended it or not, the monks remind me of a lot of American Evangelicals when it comes to politics. (I don’t want to step on toes or offend anyone or get into political debates; this is just my opinion and the way I see it, and I welcome other points of view). I am very concerned about the way many American Evangelicals have married themselves to the Republican party (I would feel the same no matter what party it was). So many have mixed religion and politics to the point that they forget which is which and some seem to serve the State more than the serve God. I am not saying that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics, but rather that political convictions should be guided by spiritual convictions (which are far superior), all the while realizing that we cannot wield political power in order to impose morality and fix the world’s brokenness. Just seems to me that some Christians practically sell their soul to their political party, believing they can use it to bring about good, even if it means they’ve got to get down in the mire to do it. I think the monks are like that. We only see them as they are in the present time, and we only have hints of what happened before, but it’s obvious to me that they are culpable and they have a political alliance, and I don’t really remember there being much spirituality being practiced, at least we weren’t allowed to see it.

        I want to write more, but I told my kids we would play board games, and my time is up. I’m glad we will soon be able to talk about the book in its entirety. Oh, the end! I tend to not make major predictions for how a book ends. I just sorta let myself be led along, until there I am on the last page. It was just right. I am not sure what I expected, but it was really perfect.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I also don’t want to step on toes, but I do dare approaching these difficult topics. They matter to me, and I like hearing what others say about them. Actually, this is a good time and place to talk politics as it’s pertinent to the discussion of the book.

        I will preface this as you did, this is just my opinion. I feel comfortable since my opinion coincides completely with yours, which it’s not to say it’s the right opinion, since opinions are not valued in terms of the content they express, (which can and should be challenged), but their validity reside in the arguments that support the perception and observations made. I believe that, should you or any other commenting here, differ from my opinion, I’d still like to hear that person speak, and I’d love to have a positive conversation that will enrich us all.

        Here, I can’t help but seeing what you mention in the monks. What should be a religious group, acts like a political force that also happens to be oppressive. I’m reading The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard, and he also comments on shortcomings that afflict the ‘right’ and ‘left’ christianity. I like when you say spiritual convictions are superior to political ones. That’s also not to mean we should abstain from participating in politics, on the contrary, the christian lives in the world. But we don’t look at mammon, or we are not of the world, so our perspective, our goals, our vision and conduct, is not determined, reduced, or guided by worldly standards and common practices.

        Curiosly, I also felt agnosticism in the book. The allusions to God are detached, or secular, -as when Beatrice speaks about God doing this or not doing that as a possibility, or an explanation, never as a supreme being with whom she or any other in the book has a relationship with.

        I listened to a podcast in which the two people commenting thought the book relates to the British in the two World Wars, and how the country deals with its multiple problems that don’t cease even when there’s peace. The talked about the new generations who have not seen the wars fist hand, how it is for them. (I believe that’s Edwin’s case. His wound or his mom are calling to him, he has dreams, he’s mistreated, he’s called a true warrior in the making, but he doesn’t know who his friends are, whom he’s fighting, what’s that he’s preparing for, etc.)

        But, even though KI may be agnostic, and even though there’s more than good/bad, black and white, there’s culpability, both in groups and individuals.

        Tomorrow, in the last post, we’ll be able to discuss as we can without restrictions, ha ha ha. I too did not know where he was taking us, readers, though I had an idea about the end. However, both times, I read the last pages many times, trying to look for more clues. The first time, I was a bit angry, (but I guess it was more the fact I had nobody to discuss the whole book with, and that frustrated me.) The second time, I thought the last part of the book, end included, gained momentum, and like you, I thought it was the perfect end to this “foggy like” story.

        His prose is very plastic and malleable. It elicits many rabbit trails, yet it has, as he likes it, definitive themes and questions and topics that are addressed clearly.

        Once again, it seems old and modern. It’s not crystal clear fantasy, but it’s not a typical novel. I don’t think it satisfies any who doesn’t have some love or nostalgia for dragons, warriors, myths and legends. I also didn’t like it the first time as much as the second time. But now, it’s cutting deeper, it’s getting better, as I appreciate all that’s in it through this conversation and my own thoughts on it. The second time I also enjoyed it more since it seemed more familiar, less confusing, and it was truly sweet to walk along with B and A, and G and W, and to see the boy again, and to visit the monastery, (no matter how toxic, ha ha ha), and all that’s in the next section of the book that will be published tomorrow.

        And tomorrow, (or whenever possible), don’t forget to tell me how all the lore and the plants, names, birds, and Celtic symbolism, ended up aiding you, or shaping your thoughts of this story.

        I’m going to try to answer to these questions, (I’d love for you and others to give me their answers on it), what do you think KI is telling us with this novel, what’s this Buried Giant?, and how do they interpret or understand the end, (if there’s a particular way you see it.)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Only have a few minutes before supper comes out of the oven, but I saw you posted, and I read, and I wish I had more time, but maybe I can come back later. I will just try to say a couple things right now.

        “Our perspective, our goals, our vision and conduct, is not determined, reduced, or guided by worldly standards and common practices.”

        Yes. This is a great statement and I think it’s exactly where Christians fail when political alliances become too important and when politics and religion mix into some kind of fierce religious nationalism. And it is fear. It happens because of fear. There is such a temptation to take matters into our own hands – to feel that we need to help God along – he’s too slow, too patient, too long suffering, so let’s take action, even if that action has to be tainted in some way, because the ends justify the means – we’re just trying to make a less evil world. I know I am speaking in such broad strokes and in reality there is so much nuance, but I think that’s where the monks are in this story. And I think that is where many Christians are in the current story of this nation. And it’s really easy for me to blame and point fingers, but I do acknowledge that it is complicated. It’s so complicated. And KI does a beautiful job of showing that complexity. I mean, wow – the book is superb in that light. It truly is not black and white, right and wrong – that’s not to say that there is no right and wrong, but it is so often so gray, and one must make a choice, and it is so hard. It’s normal people just trying to make the best decision they can in hard situations. And it is so hard to make the principled decision. It’s so scary to remain principled and to trust that God really is there working it all out in his perfect timing.

        That’s all I’ve got time for right now, but thanks for sharing all that, and I’d love to talk about more of it soon.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I believe that’s deliberate. KI may be taking us to a different way of understanding and looking at wars and conflict. He’s pointing down, to the individual, and to the fact that it’s our personal lives that are so entangled in whatever happens around us. In one way, we have so little to do with history and its turns, in another way, the times we live, the wars that happen during our life time, become the fiber of our existence, define who we are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. That’s great. I agree. I’m usually hesitant to talk politics with people, and I don’t want to get into a big political thing here, but I will say that I really appreciate KI’s perspective on war. He has a lot of important things to say here – things that our country and many others would be wise to hear and heed. But, like this book, I have a sense of hopelessness that anything will ever change with our country’s foreign policy or with the violence in the world as a whole. How will it end? There’s always the need for one more retaliation to even the score.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Silvia, I’ve only read one of his books, Remains of the Day, which I loved, but this book sounds totally different. I think I’d be tempted to buy this book just for its looks anyhow. What a lovely copy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a very different one, yet it has Ishiguro’s traits. The book is beautiful. It’s one of the few books I bought new, the year it was published. My friend Kelly was fortunate to have an event in Virginia, where she lives, where Ishiguro was speaking and signing copies. She paid a bit more than the price of the book, not much really, to attend and get her copy. She loved it. I have watched Ishiguro interviews, and he’s someone pleasant to listen to, a humble and interesting author.

      I really like all the books I’ve read for different reasons. He’s a favorite author.

      Liked by 1 person

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