Ishiguro's new novel, 'Klara and the Sun'Twitter/InPrintHouston

Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel, Klara and the Sun, came to me at the perfect time. Closing the book, I reflected on its timeless relevance, marvelling at its ability to touch upon the dichotomy of hope and fear which characterised my attitude towards artificial intelligence and the future in such an endearing and thoughtful way.

Klara revisits the familiar territory of science-fiction so beautifully portrayed in Never Let Me Go. However, genre is completely overcast by the innate humaneness the protagonist embodies. Ishiguro not only provides us with the subtle portrait of a world where genetic modification is the norm, but also illustrates the internal landscape of Klara, an AF (Artificial Friend) intended to accompany modified, isolated teenagers. Through Klara, as the protagonist, Ishiguro subverts traditional narration in a way which allows us to empathise with something superficially non-human, giving a voice to a concept which has evoked such curiosity for decades.

“Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel, Klara and the Sun, came to me at the perfect time.”

Yet as we become immersed in Klara’s thoughts and observations, we begin to observe ourselves and find the lineation between ‘human’ thoughts and her thoughts increasingly obscured. Klara and the reader share an unprecedented symbiotic relationship, gaining knowledge about the people and world furnishing the story, as facilitated by Ishiguro’s subtle and careful writing style. Never revealing his intentions, the author evokes an unwavering curiosity which is firmly established in the opening scene. Klara’s initially limited perspective from the window of her shop plays with our own perception, challenging us to visualise her surroundings as she cannot.

Consequently, we become fully invested in her relationship with Josie, a teenager with an unnamed illness that haunts Klara and the reader as we attempt to draw conclusions about this new reality. As complications regarding Josie’s family and their relationship with technology arise, we experience an epiphany characteristic of Ishiguro’s work. While the relationship between humans and technology is of course an essential aspect explored by the novel, it is clear that Ishiguro’s primary concern lies with the relationships we share between each other and humans – this futuristic setting is simply a sandbox for Ishiguro to experiment with the endless possibilities which human interaction can create.


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Love is an enduring theme of Ishiguro’s works, although often explored in brooding and enigmatic ways. By placing Klara in the centre of the many human connections explored in the novel, Ishiguro allows us to reassess the nature of our own relationships, including the relationship with the self. This is because Klara, as a non-human entity, seems to be emotionally removed from the situations she observes – observation being her key interest throughout the novel. This is where the reader and Klara diverge – as an astute reader, the reality of Josie’s sister’s death seems obvious – but with empathy that can only be learned, Klara struggles to catch on.

One may begin the novel with the notion that as an AF, Klara is unable to reciprocate love. But it becomes increasingly evident that Klara’s ‘feelings’ for her new family motivate her to grow internally – something that the majority of us can relate to. The tireless work she performs for Josie, the perilous situations she regularly places herself in to please others, and most symbolically, her endless pleading to the sun for Josie’s recovery, are all demonstrations of love.

Indeed, you cannot overlook the second half of the novel’s title. The sun, as a concept, and, strikingly, as a character, performs an important role in Klara’s life. Believing that its power will cure Josie, she regularly consults it, performing tasks to please it – such as removing a pollution-inducing machine. Ambiguous as ever, Ishiguro draws no conclusions as to what the sun represents. It’s ‘special nourishment’ could be a metaphor for any kind of miracle – love, medicine, divine intervention – and we are left with no clarification other than Klara’s complete resoluteness and trust in its power.

“Fundamentally, this hopeful text places an emphasis on the emotional connections humans will always have with each other”

What can be discerned, however, is that the sun represents hope. It is something that both powers Klara, sustaining her energy and giving her life in a technological sense, but also something that has an innate relationship with humanity, as Klara observes. It is Klara’s hopefulness, in combination with her best efforts, that allow her to be united with Josie at the start of the novel, and it is a sustained hope throughout which allows for their survival. While there are naturally pessimistic points of the novel, and dark revelations which only enhance Ishirguro’s nuanced portrayal of humanity and our future, its overall tone and simple message is one which seems perfect for our current mood.

Fundamentally, this hopeful text places an emphasis on the emotional connections humans will always have with each other, no matter how we modify or technologically advance ourselves. Klara as a character certainly conveys her interest, as an AF, in human behaviour, as chief over the world in which they inhibit, valuing aspects of life which we may view as basic – such as the power of the sun.