The Malta Independent 28 June 2022, Tuesday

A masterpiece about life, love and mortality

Noel Grima Sunday, 15 May 2022, 09:22 Last update: about 3 months ago

‘Klara and the Sun’. Author: Kazuo Ishiguro. Publisher: Faber / 2021. Pages: 340pp

Nobel Prize winner Sir Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki Japan in 1954 and moved to the UK with his parents when he was five years old.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017. The citation said: "In novels of great emotional force, (he) has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world."

The book being reviewed is the eighth novel by the author and was published in March 2021. It is what is described as a "dystopian" science fiction story. Set in a speculative unidentified American city in the future it describes a word in which children are given companions in the form of what are described as "artificial friends" or AFs, humanlike machines designed to keep children who are tutored privately at home, from being lonely.

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Klara is one such AF and, while being exhibited at a store shop window attracted the attention of Josie, a sickly girl, even though newer and better AFs were available.

Klara then is purchased by Josie's mum and goes to live with them, coming to share their lives, hopes and tragedies.

AFs are not supposed to have feelings but Klara tries very hard to penetrate the unknown world of human feelings, succeeding to a great extent.

It is a very different world from our own, sometimes even in vocabulary. Instead of mobile phones they use "oblongs". Some children have the advantage of being "lifted", some kind of genetic modification while others, like Josie's friend Rick do not.

Josie soon gets worse and we learn that she once had a sister who passed away afflicted by a similar mysterious illness.

In her frenzied desire to help Josie, Klara comes to believe that the sun is essential to heal her. She thus travels to a barn which she believes is the sun's resting place to plead on behalf of Josie. She also comes to believe that a road repair machine which emits pollution is the sun's enemy and she even offers part of her being to ensure, as she believes, its destruction.

The climax of the story is reached when the family visits the city and pays a call on Mr Capalbi, who is supposed to be painting a portrait of Josie. But here we learn that the artist is actually trying to make an AF of Josie and Klara is meant to become a continuation of Josie by inhabiting the AF's body.

Klara's keen sense of observation is an important theme throughout the novel especially in the first chapters. The attention revolves around Josie, naturally, but is also extended to others, from the Beggar Man and his dog. It is through close observation that an AF comes to a more complex understanding of our world and life.

Klara reveres the sun as a kind of god, prays to him and believes he can heal Josie. And ultimately he does.

But in the end, Klara comes to realise that there is indeed something in Josie that is beyond her reach - it is the love that is shared between people that makes us special and that is something that can't be copied or replicated.

 


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