Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro: a book review

knowing human behavior through the lens of an AI


My introduction with the works of Kazuo Ishiguro started when my English professor asked me to write on “Never let me go” and the world of abstractum opened up for me. Partly because it was my assignment and partly to impress my teacher, I forced myself to like the plotline. I formally started liking the works when I read “Buried Giants” on my own. When this book came out I was excited. Firstly, because his writing came after a long spell of almost 5 years and because it was after him winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 2017.


The book is told from the point of view of Klara, an artificial friend (AI/AF) who is designed to help children to grow and learn. She is paired up with Josie to be her companion. The little robot is filled with optimism and observational skills and an almost childlike purity exists within her which can be due to the way she is programmed or that she is not exposed to the world unlike humans. She tries to understand the complexities of human behavior, the surroundings and just like humans no two AI functions can analyze in the same exact manner. As the story unfolds it shows the darker aspects of the life and the world she lives in.


Kazuo Ishiguro in one of his interviews (Waterstone) told how the idea of writing a children’s book first struck his mind and the premise of the storyline is based on that theme itself. The concept of knowing human world from the world of nonhumans, specifically an AI isn’t an uncommon theme and it clearly reminded me of “Little eyes” by Samanta Schweblin (goodreads). Nevertheless, I was curious to read it but in the midway the plot plateaued and it became very hard to navigate without getting tired. The problem is that I had already set up a very high expectation before reading it. Just like every other Ishiguro works, the subliminal darker theme that flows throughout his storyline exists here too except this time it was way too simple and banal after a point of time. There is shallowness in the characters and the story goes nowhere after a certain point of time. The combination of science fiction with dystopia and talking about some of the serious issues like loneliness, need for companionship and unconditional love can be witnessed. Klara and Josie develop an imbalanced relationship where Klara shows generosity and Josie shows selfishness. The relationship dynamics work as a metaphor about how humans are in general. The growing distance with them talks a lot how we treat objects and sometimes humans.


We start with a lot of excitement and promises, only to lose interest in it after a point of time and there starts the quest to find something more exciting. The concept of how humans interact with non-living objects and imagining the idea that non living objects can also feel things and emotions give an eerie, creepy undertone. Kazuo Ishiguro gives us an image of how our future can look like when we share more connections with technologies while holding a leash in our hands. This further sheds light on the social hierarchy, be it economic or racial, where we tend to know only from our own limited point of view, experiences and social conditioning.

ABOUT THE BOOK-

Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her. Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: What does it mean to love?


Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro is published by Faber & Faber and to order your copy buy here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR-

Sir Kazuo Ishiguro (カズオ・イシグロ or 石黒 一雄), OBE, FRSA, FRSL is a British novelist of Japanese origin and Nobel Laureate in Literature (2017). His family moved to England in 1960. Ishiguro obtained his Bachelor's degree from the University of Kent in 1978 and his Master's from the University of East Anglia's creative writing course in 1980. He became a British citizen in 1982. He now lives in London.


His first novel, A Pale View of Hills, won the 1982 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize. His second novel, An Artist of the Floating World, won the 1986 Whitbread Prize. Ishiguro received the 1989 Man Booker prize for his third novel The Remains of the Day. His fourth novel, The Unconsoled, won the 1995 Cheltenham Prize. His latest novel is The Buried Giant, a New York Times bestseller. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2017.

His novels An Artist of the Floating World (1986), When We Were Orphans (2000), and Never Let Me Go (2005) were all shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

In 2008, The Times ranked Ishiguro 32nd on their list of "The 50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945". In 2017, the Swedish Academy awarded him the Nobel Prize in Literature, describing him in its citation as a writer "who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world".


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