This post discusses parts III and IV to the end of the book. If you have not read it all yet, you may want to wait, or you’ll encounter spoilers. If you’ve finished the book, you may probably want to discuss and unload your thoughts with others. That’s what I’ve felt twice! The very reason why I wanted to have a book club on his books. They always leave me with an urge to talk about them.
First on the picture. I had fun coming up with this image that is a blend of two of my own pictures:
It’s not that it has to do anything in particular with the book, but it vaguely reminds me of some of the feelings in the book, one of sluggishness, or better described as heaviness, inability to move, -when Axl and Beatrice are trying to cross that first river. The lonely bird reminds me also vaguely of the end, Axl alone, we don’t know if ready to fly to meet Beatrice, or to go his own way. The bigger caterpillar on top of the bird, I can make it ‘be’ that giant looming over our heads without us even noticing. But this was not premeditated, I just played with the two pictures, liked the effect, and looking at the result, thought of those things I just wrote about.
As you all know, these three posts were written before any was published, so I’m blind to how the discussion is going. For this book club, I chose to narrate the content of the sections, and to interject my thoughts in every post, apart from other thoughts I’d be sharing in the comments. I was surprised to see how, despite having read the book once, and listened to it this summer, whenever I came here to write about each section, I had to give the chapters another overlook to remember what exactly happened.
I believe ambiguity and that foggy feel is a constant in Ishiguro’s books. This makes his books fun even when you read them many times, since every time you seem to perceive something else, and also different readers find different elements, and make a variety of connections.
Let’s get to Parts III and IV, which are the last two parts of the book. There’s two titles in what’s left of the book, they are Gawain’s First Reverie, and Gawain’s Second Reverie. At this point in the book, I felt confused. Who are Gawain, Axl, and Wistan?, and who is Edwin? The first time around, I had high hopes that all the threads opened in the book, all my questions, would be neatly answered in a classic ending. I should have remembered that’s not Ishiguro. I’m not going to pretend to know what he wants to achieve better than him (how stupid of me that’d be), I’m just speaking from my reader’s point of view, I can talk about what he does to me. He leaves me with questions, my mind is constantly going to scenes in the book, and trying to find an overarching explanation that makes sense in my head. As I go back to the book and read again parts of it in order to narrate for us to situate ourselves in the discussion, I find never ending nuances, details, allusions, everything which sends my mind to spin on those a bit more, ha ha ha.
Gawain. We get to know him a bit more here, and about Querig, and Arthur himself.
I’m back to this post after a few difficult weeks. My parents and siblings live in Madrid, and I live in Texas. This past end of May, my mom went to have a procedure for a malign colon tumor, and she had complications. She almost doesn’t make it. She had two other surgeries, one to place bags to do the work of the colon, another was a tracheotomy, since she was connected to a respirator for long, and they had to do this as a transition to her breathing on her own. At this point in time, she’s slowly recovering, not completely out of danger, but they are all working on getting her out of the ICU. In short, I’m typing this June 21st, and I’ll go to see her July 9th, and stay for two weeks.
I hope to still be able to check these book club posts, and comment this wonderful book with you.
Back to the book, I’ll just make some remarks on the last happenings, less detailed than usual, but I still want to discuss the ending with you. Gawain and Wistan fight in a memorable scene very Japanese in a sense. Honor and formality matter more than unrestrained violence and slaughter. Wistan respects an aged Gawain, who, after all, never meant to kill Querig, but to defend her. After, when Wistan goes to kill the giant, we all realize she’s not that fiery threat anymore. The irony would be that to bury the dead giant, is to resurrect the war. Erwin, the boy, is realizing he’s here to become a soldier (maybe like Axl was in his days), and to avenge his family. Conflicts arouse with the fall of Querig and Gawain. Arthur was confronted with an impossible decision, how to end the Saxon-Briton war. He does something that puts a halt to the conflict, at a cost, -people forget not just about the conflict, but also about their life-. When we forget, there’s no recollection of pain or hatred, but gone is the love and happy times. One may even welcome that pain, if that means to have the rest, as Beatrice remarked to her husband in the previous pages.
At a quicker than the rest of the book’s pace, we are made known about many truths. Not only Axl, but Beatrice was unfaithful to her husband. Their son is not alive, he left dishonored, and his parents never went after him. He started a new life, and he died without them seeing him or telling him they loved him. This is a difficult topic for me at the moment. I’ve told my mom I love her, but having almost died, and being unable to talk for almost a month, I’m nervous about going to see her and being able to tell her that I love her at least one more time, and not only, but showing her my love by taking care of her for a few days.
This book also had me thinking about what memories are, the individual ones, and those of a generation, of a nation, the collective ones. Ishiguro always makes me think about the memories of those on the bad side, (the oppressor’s side.) There’s losers on both sides. Those who align themselves with the oppressors, many times had no choice but to follow until they see what’s that they are really following. What’s something patriotic in the beginning, can quickly turn into something morally wrong and evil. Conflicts leave scars and traumas that can’t be healed easily.
Axl and Beatrice go back to meet the boatman. They want to cross that river, (which means dying, maybe?), and they want to do that together. That can only be achieved if they love each other and are able to answer the boatman questions with identical responses. I never understand very well what happens, and I’ve come to believe there’s not crystal clear answers to Ishiguro’s endings. They are left undefined, not unfinished. They are not concluded in a more typical way, as in books that have a more defined plot, development, and conclusion. He uses the plot to hover above certain topics, he explores themes, and he gives us possibilities. We know this much, Beatrice crosses the river. We still don’t know the true nature of the boatman, (is he helping them, or separating them.) And Axl, did he deliberately not go with Beatrice?, or is he left there waiting, like the woman in the first part of the book, who could not go with her husband? I even thought that woman was Beatrice on a different time, a time when her husband was on the other side and she was the one left behind.
No matter their separation, they seemed more together in the end than ever. Their journey proved to have been different than the one they envisioned. Yet they learned about each other and about their life together, and they know they loved each other in the past, and love each other in the present.
I hope some of you comment and make remarks on the parts I’ve not covered well.