Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro – beautiful, powerful and unforgettable
Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, “Klara and the Sun”, is a thought-provoking exploration of a world where Artificial Intelligence is commonplace. The protagonist, Klara, is an Artificial Friend (AF) created to provide companionship to humans. Through Klara’s point of view, the novel examines the complexities of love, loss, connection and mortality. It explores the boundaries between human and AI, and delves into themes of religion and a higher power whom Klara speaks to and believes influences her path.
In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro examines the implications of this reality and philosophical concepts such as free will, the idea of determinism or the concept of morality.
About the Author – Kazuo Ishiguro
Sir Kazuo Ishiguro (カズオ・イシグロ or 石黒 一雄), OBE, FRSA, FRSL is a British novelist of Japanese origin and Nobel Laureate in Literature (2017). His family moved to England in 1960 and he obtained his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Kent in 1978 and his Master’s from the University of East Anglia’s creative writing course in 1980. He became a British citizen in 1982 and now lives in London.
Ishiguro has won numerous awards, including the 1982 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, the 1986 Whitbread Prize, the 1989 Man Booker Prize, and the 1995 Cheltenham Prize. In 2017, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his novels of great emotional force.
His novels An Artist of the Floating World (1986), When We Were Orphans (2000), and Never Let Me Go (2005) were all shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In 2008, The Times ranked Ishiguro 32nd on their list of “The 50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945”.
What is it about? – Synopsis
‘The Sun always has ways to reach us.’
From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change for ever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.
In Klara and the Sun, his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly-changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?
What did I think? – Opinion
Klara and the Sun is the first book I read by Kazuo Ishiguro, and it’s mesmerizing. I absolutely loved it! The book is a must-read for any reader who is interested in exploring a deep, thought-provoking and insightful story that still is, after all, science fiction.
I have always found the subject of Artificial Intelligence to be fascinating, and when I heard about “Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro, I was instantly intrigued. And I was not disappointed! Ishiguro’s beautiful and evocative writing style, the unique story of love and connection, the complex and captivating characters, and the subtle elements that make us forget Klara is not human—everything in this novel is beautiful.
I loved Klara’s evolution throughout the novel. At the start, her language is limited and robotic, using simple words and phrases. As the novel progresses, her language and expression become more sophisticated, using complex language and metaphors, and expressing her emotions more overtly. This evolution shows her growth as a character and self-discovery, as well as her increasing understanding of the world.
As described at the beginning of this article, Klara and the Sun tackles many different complex subjects. One of them being the meaning of love, and whether or not love itself is a strictly human experience. Klara’s understanding of love is strongly influenced by Josie, who provides her with guidance and insight and teaches Klara to understand and express love in the most authentic and pure way. It really makes you reflect about what love is, where it comes from and how we use, apply or interpret it depending on the person or situation. And when Klara learns about the “portrait” that is being made for Josie, it makes you think about if that special, unique love we feel for someone can be replicated.
Another important theme throughout the novel is the Sun, which serves as a powerful symbol of faith, hope, creativity and possibilities. The Sun serves as a source of energy, comfort and stability for Klara and as she begins to understand the world around her, Klara looks to the Sun for guidance and inspiration. The Sun also serves as a source of optimism, providing her with the hope and belief that anything is possible. It is unusual and interesting to find that the most spiritual character is indeed a robot. She treats the Sun as if it’s a personal god with the power to intervene in her life. She frequently speaks to the Sun, using it as a kind of confidant. In addition, Klara regards the Sun as a source of knowledge and understanding, believing that if she looks up to it she can gain insight.
Then there is also the subject of using technology for progress, with a process called “lifting”, referring to a procedure done on children at a young age for the purpose of increasing their intelligence, but it may come with serious drawbacks or side effects, prime example Josie, who contracted a grave illness as a result of being lifted, and nearly died from it. But is it really worth risking your life for it? Comparing Josie to her friend Rick, we can’t see any obvious benefits apart from the social value it seems to provide.
There’s so much more that can be talked about in Klara and the Sun, such as the concept of morality. Klara learns about right and wrong, and the responsibilities that come with them. It also explores the implications of free will: can robots and AI really have free will? Klara is programmed to act in certain ways, but is also capable of making her own choices. Additionally, the novel considers the implications of an AI that is capable of learning, feeling, and understanding.
And finally, THE ENDING. It is ambiguous to say the least, and leaves many questions open to interpretation by the reader, which I personally loved.
[Spoiler alert] My personal take on the ending
Klara has not replaced Josie via the “portrait” and Josie lives and has grown up and left for university. Klara has started to “fade away”, is disorientated and not always able to distinguish between reality and memories. She’s been brought to what I take to be a graveyard, and sits alone, watching the sun and sorting through her memories. The arrival of the manager, and the conversation they have is, in certain way, a closure to the story, a way of going full circle. I guess you could call this the good ending, or best ending possible.
[Spoiler alert] Other theories on the ending
A second theory I’d go with is in certain way the complete opposite. Josie has indeed died, and Klara, her knowledge and everything she learned, has been used to replace Josie with the “portrait”. There are multiple hints or clues that make this a real possibility, but the actual replacement is not mentioned at any point. Klara has not been disposed off (by petition of the real Josie), but has started to “fade away”, is disorientated and not always able to distinguish between reality and memories. She’s been brought to what I take to be a graveyard, and sits alone, watching the sun and sorting through her memories. The manager appears, and they converse, but it isn’t sure if this person is The Manager, Josies mother (there’s kind of a detail that points this direction), or the replacement Josie (there’s one detail that hints towards this last one). There’s other ways of interpreting it and it’s interesting to see what other people think. You can find various opinions HERE.
Overall, Klara and the Sun is an absolutely beautiful, powerful and unforgettable novel. I highly recommend it and I’m sure it won’t be the last of Ishiguro’s novels I read!
Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Book Title: Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Book Description: Kazuo Ishiguro's novel, "Klara and the Sun", is a thought-provoking exploration of a world where Artificial Intelligence is commonplace. The protagonist, Klara, is an Artificial Friend (AF) created to provide companionship to humans. Through Klara's point of view, the novel examines the complexities of love, loss, connection and mortality. It explores the boundaries between human and AI, and delves into themes of religion and a higher power whom Klara speaks to and believes influences her path.