All of the pundits seem to believe that Kazuko Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun will undoubtedly be named to the longlist to be announced on July 29. Certainly four previous Booker nominations and the 1989 prize for The Remains of the Day would add credence to that guess.
Reading Part 1 of the novel, asks the reader to reimagine the role of the imaginary friend in the life of a child. Rather than the fruit of an over-active imagination, the possible friend becomes a commodity that can be purchased from a store, a selection that basically reduces the child to buyer, the friend to abstraction. This has the interesting effect within the authorial choices that Ishiguro makes of reducing the human to automation while exploring the accessibility of feeling within the commercial object. Narrated from the point of view of the AF who would choose her own buyer if she could, the story reveals an awakening to space and time that exceeds a buyer’s limitation. Klara, a mutant in her own right, delights in her days in the shop window, days that enlarge her vision. Longing for the dictates of her senses to be realized, she somehow knows that her hope exists in being chosen.
Klara’s focus on the Beggar Man and his dog becomes the vehicle for a dawning understanding of the nature of life and death, a deepening realization of the power of the Sun that transcends mere functional energy. That Ishiguro holds the identity behind the initialism AF until the end of Part 1 and the completion of the saga of selection is both rhetorical and symbolic. It is rhetorical in that it mimics the mystery of identity in the reader’s mind, and it is symbolic in the sense that the birth of a friend, albeit artificial, comes only in the ritual of choice.