My idea of an allegory is Animal Farm. The symbols are one level deep. The novel is like a re-telling of the Russian Revolution for children. Napoleon is not intended to be just any dictator. He represents Stalin. Snowball is not just any dissident. He represents Trotsky. And so on. The Buried Giant does not work this way.
On the level of nations and peoples, it weighs the virtues of remembering and forgetting. The Jews are deeply invested in our never forgetting the Holocaust, partly, I believe, so that it is never repeated. This sounds reasonable enough. Yet, Rwanda, less than 25 years after the horrible genocide, is one of the most stable countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Apparently, the Tutsis were willing to forgive the Hutus for their atrocities. This, too, seems laudable.
On the personal level, it seems clear that the ability to forget and let go of serious marital problems (such as infidelity) is important to the longevity of a marriage. On the other hand, it is the shared experiences that build an enduring relationship. If they are forgotten, what have you?
This is theme and symbol, not allegory. Ishiguro does not believe that he has solved the problem as Bunyan and Orwell clearly do. He uses the tools of "myth, history, and the fantastic" (to quote Gaiman) to illustrate some of the implications and consequences of his theme. It is not a question that can be easily solved or simply explained. Ishiguro does not try.
: It seems to me that they come to nearly the
: same conclusion. Woods makes more of it, but
: in the end, Gaiman too detects the foul odor
: of allegory. And both are rather
: dissatisfied with the book.
: However literary it may be, I call it
: fantasy because of the pixies and dragons
: and whatnot. I didn't especially feel that I
: was reading an allegory. If there is
: allegory, it seems to me subtle enough to be
: I didn't dislike the novel, but I didn't
: find it very gripping either. Why? Not
: enough detail? Not enough psychological
: realism? I don't know. I wish I could say
: why. Whatever I tried to say now would be
: influenced by these reviews.
: I do disagree with Gaiman's idea that the
: book stays in your head. I've hardly given
: it a thought since finishing. Cloud Atlas,
: whatever problems I have with it, does seem
: to linger in my mind like a parasitic worm.
« Back to index