Brexit & The Buried Giant

on June 24, 2016

On Wednesday, I woke up to a foggy, muggy morning, like the dementors had settled over the coast. They knew the referendum was coming and I’m pretty sure they were sucking out all the joy they could. (Waking up this Friday morning to a leave vote, I think they succeeded). Be careful on the Millenium bridge, London readers. Sorry are my Harry Potter references getting too much? This post isn’t about Harry Potter.


On Wednesday I took a personal day for myself and my book (Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant) and went to Totnes, the little hippie city tucked into the hills of old-fashioned, traditional Devon.


^ St Mary’s church in Totnes


Things have been getting a bit much lately. I don’t mean to get gooey or personal on the World Wide Web, but the world’s just been getting to me. I like to think of myself as a pretty tough and independent person. I mean, I did move all the way across the world by myself. But honestly, so much crap is happening in the world right now and it’s making me unexpectedly emotional.

I sometimes wonder if the world is getting more troubled, or I’m just getting more aware of its troubles as I get older. Or maybe collectively as the human race we are becoming more aware of how screwed up we are? Would it be better to just not know?


I needed to get away, so I spent the afternoon in a Totnes café finishing my book, The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro.

It’s been a long time since I read a real piece of literature like this. The prose is measured and careful and beautiful. It’s a fable that’s so aware of being a fable.

We follow an old married couple on their journey to reunite with their son – but a “mist” plagues their land (post-Arthurian England) that makes people forgetful. The mist is actually the breath of Querig, a great dragon from Arthur’s reign that was never killed. The couple joins a warrior and a knight whose quest is to kill the dragon and restore memory to the land…

We begin to wonder, is it that simple? What if they remember things that they’d rather forget? That make them fall out of love? Or look at each other differently? Or bring back war between the Saxons and Britons?

And what about the collective memory of the land? Is peace that’s kept through ignorance or forgetfulness truly peace? Is it better to be together and ignore the past or split apart as a way to heal old wounds?

I don’t know.


It was a difficult read, considering current political states. This tendency of splitting apart. Of remembering spiteful truths. Is forgetfulness integral to forgiving?

I wonder if I’d read this book at a different time in my life if I’d still make such strong connections between its themes and my life. I think I would. It’s one of those books that is so complex and haunting you would just have to.


^reading at Seeds 2, a vegetarian buffet restaurant in Totnes


In fact, I was reading it last week before teaching my yoga class to local refugee women. A woman noticed it and said, “good book, I read that when I was in the jungle in Calais. I wanted something different.” I’m sure it stuck with her as well, but in a different way. I’m sure she had more to forget than me. Or maybe she’s decided to hold on?
And The Buried Giant is different. But at the same time, it’s so familiar. It’s like reading a bed time story from your child hood, but the words have shifted and you can’t quite remember it.

  
  

I’m really sad today. Really, truly sad. In the midst of remembrances – of “wrongs” done to the UK by the EU that’s spurred Brexit – there have also been things forgotten. Forgetting bombs from World War II that struck across Europe despite borders. Forgetting that today’s “independent” Britain is the source of so many other countries’ independence days. Forgetting that fish and chips were invented by a refugee.

I don’t think books are meant to make you feel good. Or even to understand your feelings. The Buried Giant certainly didn’t for me. But it’s made me feel more, and I think that’s the sign of a good book. In a world that’s seemingly forgotten to feel – we must remember that borders are constructions but human connection and kindness is not.

Sarah xx

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