Sunday, November 19, 2017

Turning Point

Some Scientific study has shown that couples breath at the same rate and have synchronized heart beats indicating that romantically involved couples are linked on a physiological

Every morning, there is an elderly couple who go for their walk in the neighbourhood where I live. The man is tall and lean while the woman is not as tall but lean as well. To avoid traffic, the man and his wife often walk in a single file. The man silently falls into step behind the woman whose voice is occasionally audible when she utters something to her husband. When the mornings are warm, they share an umbrella and walk almost side by side, the man slightly behind the woman. On the occasions when I walk my dog and as our paths cross, we greet one another. Then they  continue to walk in companionable silence. 

The Buried Giant written by Kazuo Ishiguro is an allegory and the story is metaphorical. 

The Buried Giant  is a novel about Axl and Beatrice, an elderly couple going from one village to the next, hoping  to visit their long lost son who had left home since young. The story is set in post-Arthurian England about the sixth or seventh century when the Britons and the Saxons were at war. The Saxons and Britons live side by side in an uneasy peace during  a mythical time of ogres, sprites and dragons — most of all the she-dragon Querig whom the warrior, Wistan has set out to kill. In the story, one warrior needs to kill the dragon Querig as badly as another needs to keep her alive. Wistan has rescued Edwin, a boy stolen by ogres. Axl reminds Wistan of someone he met as a child. As the story progresses, Axl begins to remember his own past, as a soldier of some kind. The rescued boy, Edwin, who the villagers believe that he has a wound that is caused by a fiend is in danger in his Saxon settlement. It is the villagers' conviction that once bitten by a fiend, the boy will before long turn fiend himself and wreak horror within their walls.They fear him and should he remain here, he'll suffer a terrible fate. So the boy and the warrior join the elderly couple on their journey to their son’s village.

Axl and Beatrice love each other deeply and they are at an age when their memories have become foggy and  unreliable, But all the people in their community, and even those in neighboring villages, Briton and Saxon, appear to be having the same difficulties in remembering things from the past. They are told that there is a mist spread by the breath of she-dragon , Querig that robs memories: good memories and bad, lost children, old rancors and wounds. 

Beatrix is afraid that she cannot recall their most treasured memories. Here is a snippet of the story between Beatrix and her husband.

     'What are you saying, princess? How can our lover wither? Isn’t it stronger now than when we were foolish young lovers?’

     ‘But Axl, we can’t even remember those days. Or any of the years between. We don’t remember our fierce quarrels or the small moments we enjoyed and treasured. We don’t remember our son or why he’s away from us.’

     'We can make all those memories come back, princess. Besides, the feeling in my heart for your will be there just the same, no matter what I remember or forget. Don’t you feel the same, princess?’

 The husband wakes up with a memory so the wife is eager to know.
        Oh , Axl! What memory was that ?’
      ‘I was remembering a time we were walking through a market or a festival. We were in a village, but not our own, and you were wearing that light green cloak with the hood.’
        ' This must be a dream or else a long time ago, husband. I have no green cloak.’
      ‘ I’m talking of long ago, right enough, princess. A summer’s day, but there was a chill wind in this place where we were, and you’d placed the green cloak around you, though you kept the hood from your head. A market or perhaps some festival. It was a village on a slope with goats in a pen where you first set foot in it.’
          ‘And what was it we were doing there, Axl?’

Axl remembers that he and Beatrix was walking arm in arm and there was a stranger , a man from the village, suddenly in their path. Axl also remembers that the stranger took one glance at his wife and  stared at his wife like he was beholding a goddess and the stranger had said he had never set eyes on a woman so beautiful  and he reached forward and touched Beatrice’s arm.

Beatrice then recall something but not clearly and she thinks the stranger was a drunken man and asks Axl if that was the day when the latter grew jealous and quarreled with the man , the way they were almost run out of the village. Axl denies having any jealous quarrel with the stranger and tells Beatrice that till this day he still feels the pride rising through him at the stranger’s words : The most beautiful vision he’d seen. Beatrix says,

     ‘ If you felt proud , Axl, and you were jealous also. Didn’t you stand up to the man even though he was drunk?’
    ‘It’s not how I remember it, princess. Perhaps I just made a show of being jealous as a sort of jest. But I would have known the fellow meant no harm. It’s what I woke with this morning, though it’s been many years.’
   ‘If that’s how you’ve remembered it, Axl, let it be the way it was. With this mist upon us, any memory’s a precious thing and we’d best hold tight to it.’

 The elderly couple long for Querig's end thinking only of the return of their own dear memories. But will the giant, once well buried stir or rise again?The sense of the past lingers on as we know history  tends to repeat itself.

Memories are valuable as they are who we are but some memories are best slipped away. While some thoughts can inspire, some can hurt too. Amnesia can be a godsend in some instances as illustrated by the uncomplicated and innocent love of Axl and Beatrix and as they begin to remember things, there is a subtle shift in their love for each other. While some memories  may haunt us, but  for past wounds to heal, remembering the past is necessary  for reconciliation, if at all, to take place. As unresolved past remains buried,  history is thus  continuously present. 

Kazuo Ishiguro  has cleverly crafted a fantasy novel where he has invented a mythical landscape set against ancient time when England was first created but the core of the story is still very alive in the present context and its themes relevant to the modern world. 

The Buried Giant  is a wonderful  tale.  Some of the characters  possess  some mystical powers and there are several twists in the story,  indeed a mesmerising journey.

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