I’d remembered of course that I should be grateful as always, but hadn’t been able to keep the disappointment from my mind.
Kazuo Ishiguro, the master of suffering with dignity, is back with another literary gut-punch. There is no one else who handles quietly doomed duty quite like him.
Klara is alive, but not entirely. She is an AF: a robotic companion for disconnected children. She lives in a shop window where she strives to please the Manager. She hopes to bask in the nourishing rays of the Sun. She waits for a special child to need her, to want her, and to choose her.
She exists to keep loneliness at bay for the humans that she serves, but she is possibly the loneliest creature ever put to page. She watches, she waits, she absorbs everything around her and is filled with questions and ideas…but even when she matches with a special child she still has no one to answer her thoughtful and terribly sad wonderings.
Klara’s child, Josie, is both fragile and fearless. Josie is both Mary and Colin of The Secret Garden; she’s headstrong and alone, yet she’s also a captive of her health. She’s terrified and she’s champing at the bit to escape into the future. Choices were made for Josie by her family, and like many children of the Ishiguro-verse she is burdened with the sins of her parents.
I wish I could go out and walk and run and skateboard and swim in lakes. But I can’t because my mother has Courage. So instead I get to stay in bed and be sick. I’m glad about this. I really am.
She’s not the only one shouldering a mighty burden. Klara may lack flesh and blood, but she is full of heart and mind. She’s an orphan created specifically by technology, and while she is a “part of the family” she’s also an appliance. A deeply empathetic appliance, but an appliance none the less.
I was present, as Josie liked me to be, but wishing to give privacy, stood in the shadows, my face turned to the refrigerator.
Ever vigilant and dedicated Klara spends hours, weeks, and days standing aside. She faces the refrigerator, she sits quietly in a resource closet, she stands silently in the middle of the room like an art project.
Much like Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, the art created by young people hangs in the balance like a magic wand- if someone can create something true and genuine, can they outlive whatever the world has already decided for them? Ishiguro fills Klara and her world with aching sadness, simple expressions, and unanswerable questions.
Sometimes,’ she said, ‘at special moments like that, people feel a pain alongside their happiness. I’m glad you watch everything so carefully, Klara.