Title: Klara and the Sun
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Publisher: Faber and Faber, 2021
Kazuo Ishiguro is a Nobel Prize-winning author who was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and has lived in Britain since the age of five. This is his ninth major work of fiction. He is also a screenwriter, musician, and a short-story writer. Ishiguro was knighted in 2018 for services to literature and has been honoured in France and Japan.
What better way to comment on human behaviour than to see it through the eyes of a non-human, in this case Klara an AF (artificial friend). AFs are replicants or, for the old fashioned, robots, designed to act as friends for teenagers. Klara is an exceptional AF, highly observant and keen to learn about the world around her.
Klara and the Sun is set in a near-future America, fractured and riven with elitism, fascism and probably every other “ism” there could possibly be. Identification with America, though, is not absolute, and the countryside could be English or even Australian. Privileged children are “lifted”, schooled remotely until college (university) years; AFs compensate for limited social contact.
Read an interview with Ishiguro about Klara and the Sunat the guardian
At its core, the story revolves around the relationship between Klara and Josie, a sickly child living with her high-ranking mother and a housekeeper. Her sister is dead and her father lives elsewhere. Josie has been “lifted” but her childhood friend and neighbour Rick has not.
Gradually Ishiguro introduces us to other important characters in Josie’s life and reveals a perverse twisting of human emotions, especially love and fear and their interplay in human relationships.
Ishiguro has written this story in a style as Japanese as bonsai or pop-culture anime – in a word, with restraint. Klara and the Sun is a masterful piece of writing, picking up on the notion of artificial intelligence and the dystopian extrapolation of current societal developments, making it a unique and, in some ways, a frightening reading experience. I can thoroughly recommend it.
Reviewed by: Francis Thompson
Ballarat Writers Inc review group