Monthly Archive for September, 2015

In Search of Modern Myth

Durham Book Group Encounters ‘The Buried Giant’
What a treat to have new members join the Durham book group this September as we set forth on our new season’s reading. Jane had chosen a recent Kazuo Ishiguro, ‘the Buried Giant’, to launch our literary adventures this year. A much respected and loved author for many of the group, we had great expectations. Initially our discussion took a confused and bewildered route as we sought to understand our reactions to this puzzling, challenging tale set in Ancient Romano Anglo- Saxon Britain. Some delighted in the unlikely heroes, Axle and Beatrice, an elderly couple devoted to each other, who set out on a journey to find their son. They dwell in a country engulfed in a mist of forgetfulness, struggling to remember any of their neighbours or family who no longer live in their community. Did they exist? Have they died? A people cut off from their history. Despite their frailty they summon up the courage to travel beyond their settlement, Beatrice confident that she will remember the way as they progress on their journey. It is a period of history alive with mythical creatures, IMG_0231    inhabiting the land alongside its earthly compatriots. Soon Axle and Beatrice’s journey takes on twists and turns as they encounter characters from ancient myth, a boatman ferrying people to ‘the island’, a crazed old woman locked in a repetitive conflict with him in a cave, a village living in fear of a beast that feeds off young maidens and finally a warrior with his outcast young companion shunned because of a wound in battle with the beast. Together they discover Gawain, elderly Arthurian knight and travel on to their final destination, the dragon, source of the mist. Some readers struggled with the mythic beasts and characters that seemed neither of the fantasy genre nor the usual classic mythic traditions. Why were the familiar mythic heroes so decrepit and care worn? What was this annoying boring mist? Why did we not find ourselves enthralled by the quest as it proceeded? Members rose to the challenge and illuminated the varying literary devices, allegories and classic legends hidden in this rich, intriguing text. Was it an allegory of the authors own struggle with the mist of creating a story? Was it an attempt to address the human struggle to achieve peace and end war? Perhaps the slumbering buried giant was that monster we fear to face in remembering our own traumatic past? Do we face it in approaching death? The journey continues.