I believe it takes a certain kind of patience to read any novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. His novel for 2021, Klara and the Sun, is no exception.
His novels tend to border between literary fiction, sci-fi and dystopian which is an eclectic mix, as he innocently and calmly portrays the mundaneness of humanity through the eyes of a robot: Klara.
Klara is an intelligent AF – not the latest model of AFs, but a clever one nonetheless, who observes the world through the shop window until young Josie comes to the store to claim her as her very own Artificial Friend. Yup, Artificial Friend. Juxtaposition right?
Told from Klara’s perspective, it is innocent and simple, where she is still a juvenile herself who cannot feel like humans do, yet provides comfort to Josie in more ways than one. Her observations are basic, such as humans using oblongs (phones) and never referring to people as ‘you’, only with her own kind of respect that she acknowledges them with their names, including ‘The Mother’ and ‘Miss Helen’.
Even though the thought of having an artificial friend seems off the scale, Klara seems far from artificial – figuratively. She observes human interaction, shows respect, wants to please and is protective over Josie, who is ill hence being a help as instructed by The Mother, much to Melania Housekeeper’s annoyance (who is actually quite funny). I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Josie.
Ishiguro tackles themes of loneliness, sacrifice, and love versus life. Through Klara’s eyes, we witness how disappointing and confusing human behaviour can be, and how in fact how humans can be so mundane yet complicated, especially in the things that aren’t said which no robot could ever pick up – surely?
Ishiguro’s writing is very niche and very literate, but I quite liked this novel even if it was heavy going. Thankfully it wasn’t as bleak as Never Let Me Go, yet there are still some transcendingly sad and desperate moments where Klara innocently believes she can save Josie by calling upon the Sun, her very own God who she respects. Can Klara actually help Josie?
A novel that explores the meaning of life and what it actually means to be human. Selfish or otherwise.
Imagine if you had an Artificial Friend…
Rating – 3.5
Genre – fiction, science-fiction, dystopian