Saudade for The Buried Giant

Every once in a while, there appears a piece of work so misty in its form, that you are forced to use your imagination rather more than you are used to, in order to fill in the gaps. To be scatter-brained and write like that is easy. It is natural. But to deliberately write about a mist clouding your memories, in a vague voice, while not losing your reader, is hard. It is what Kazuo Ishiguro managed in The Buried Giant.

The story makes you meander through the English countryside, centuries in the past, with a couple looking for their son. The land is filled with a mist which makes people lose their memories and live in a sort of vague, uneasy manner. A dragon is the cause for all this mist. The story gently nudges the readers towards varied levels of discovery as the mist clears in places, like little rays of sunshine sparkling through the clouds.


The couple is looking for their lost son and hoping that his reception of them would be as warm as they want it to be. It is beautiful when a single word can capture all that: Saudade

Saudade: a feeling, a longing for something or some event that one is fond of, which is gone, but might return in a distant future
Saudade: a feeling, a longing for something or some event that one is fond of, which is gone, but might return in a distant future

It brought about the question of what we are without our memories. I had the same disorienting feeling when I read about a novel about a virile, active person who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. How aspects of her life went up as wisps of cloud.

It is our future that is often clouded in mist. Our future that we try to hurtle towards – doing things we believe in, and trying to piece it together based on random skills and interests in our present. We try to un-fog the future doing the best we can in the present and hope that it will be helpful in the future.

As I was reading The Buried Giant, I found myself wondering whether we have a complete knowledge of the past. Our past. Our memories comprise our past, which means that our past is blemished by our reactions to the events. What we see are our flavors over the years. People who are nostalgic for the most part, are those who have associated positive emotions with most of their memories. Choosing to enjoy the company of the happy ones over the less happy ones.

Could the same principle be applied for the future? Or the present for that matter? Maybe it could. Can we choose a happy flavor while living in our present, so that we can color our past happy, when we look at it from the future?

P.S: After this book, I sorely need a light, easy read.

Edit a few days afterward: I read this article about the ability of time and wanted to update the link in this post:

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