Buried Giant: memory and forgetting

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As the book is about memory and forgetting, I thought we could discuss those themes.

As I see it, there are three contexts for forgetting in the book:

  1. The enforced forgetting of the genocide of Saxons, to ensure the peace afterwards. (Does that mean Arthur is Big Brother, Gawain is O'Brien, and Querig is MiniTru?)
  2. Forgetting to cope with grief. Forgetting dead relatives to avoid reliving the pain of their loss; and the loss of memories that come with death, and the hope that the dead will remember each other in the afterlife.
  3. Forgetting as forgiveness, where Axl and Beatrice forget the harms they've done to each other so they can remain in love.

What other instances of memory and forgetting are there in the book?

When is forgetting justified, or understandable, or desirable? When and what should we not forget?

I came across this article on the subject in The Conversation (a collection of accessible articles by academics): "What Ishiguro’s Buried Giant tells us about memory".

Comments

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    For a time I wondered if the whole story was a fable about Alzheimer’s. I think it’s reasonable to add ‘Forgetting due to infirmity’, where there is no purpose to the forgetting; it just come unbidden.
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    edited September 8

    @Apocryphal said:
    For a time I wondered if the whole story was a fable about Alzheimer’s. I think it’s reasonable to add ‘Forgetting due to infirmity’, where there is no purpose to the forgetting; it just come unbidden.

    Interesting then that the monks weren't developed more, to illuminate the importance of written texts to record things outside fallible human brains.

    Why did Ishiguro do that?

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    > @Apocryphal said:
    > For a time I wondered if the whole story was a fable about Alzheimer’s. I think it’s reasonable to add ‘Forgetting due to infirmity’, where there is no purpose to the forgetting; it just come unbidden.

    I read it one stage the same way, that it was all about dementia, and that the various other potential explanations were just the protagonists rationalising to themselves. My mother maintained for a few years that "she'd always had a good memory" despite all evidence to the effect that this was no longer true. (Not that old-age-related dementia was much of a problem in Dark Ages Britain mumble mumble :) )

    So I suppose this interpretation would put it back in the realms of fantasy, but one person's individual fantastical reconstruction of events around them, rather than a fantasy world created by an author or group of gamers. In this view, the monks were no more real monks than anything else was a real thing of its kind. They might, perhaps, be meaningful if you were intimately acquainted with the psychology of the central person, but would not be meaningful if just assumed to be what they appear to be on the surface.
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    I would turn it around - I think the book is possibly about remembering, not forgetting, and about how remembering is a fantastical process. The plot-arc of the book then is shaped by what is remembered, and when, rather than what has been forgotten - it is not actual events that function as forces, but the memory of them. Gawain gets a separate voice because his memory is qualitatively different from the other characters - it shows in the very style of those chapters, which are not like the others.

    For Ishiguro I think this has implications for history - it suggests that it might only function when present as memory, or as something like memory, and is psychological and fantastic. I think Ishiguro's point is that reality is only knowable through memory, and because memory by its very nature is fantastical, reality is fantasy. Fantasy here is not an escape from reality, or a speculative alternative to it, but reality.

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