Departmental Bulletin Paper The Ogres and the Critics : Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant and the battle line of fantasy

リチャード, ホドソン  ,  リチャード, ホドソン  ,  Richard, Hodson

56 ( 2・3 )  , pp.45 - 66 , 2016-03 , 西南学院大学学術研究所
The release of Kazuo Ishiguro’s seventh novel, The Buried Giant, was both preceded and followed by considerable media interest. As well as the inevitable sense of anticipation generated by the first publication in a decade of a novel – and indeed the first book in six years – by a highly respected and decorated writer, both the novel itself, and Ishiguro’s public comments on it, have located criticism of The Buried Giant within a wider debate on the merits and status of fantasy literature. In an interview with The New York Times, Ishiguro admitted to being uncertain about the reception of his novel : “Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? Are they going to say this is fantasy?” These questions prompted a swift response from Ursula K. Le Guin, who commented unfavourably both on The Buried Giant itself – criticising “the flat, dull quality” of its dialogue, and concluding that “I found reading the book painful” – and on what she saw as the “insulting thoughtless prejudice” against fantasy that lay behind Ishiguro’s uestions. Ishiguro’s rebuttal was swift, retorting that Le Guin was “a little bit hasty in nominating me as the latest enemy for her own agenda” and declaring that “If there is some sort of battle line being drawn for and against ogres and pixies appearing in books, I am on the side of ogres and pixies”. This rebuttal drew a response from Le Guin, who apologised that her “clumsiness led him to take [her] words so much amiss” 5 but who also went on to ask a number of questions that she wished that she and Ishiguro could discuss, including : “Would he be interested in talking about the various definitions of the word “fantasy” as inclusive of most imaginative literature (as I use the word), or as limited to a modern commercial development in fiction and the media (as I think he was using the word)?” and to reiterate her feeling that Ishiguro’s original comments “appeared to me to be drawing the kind of ‘battle line’ that he deplores”. This paper will examine eighteen positive and negative reviews of The Buried Giant published in British, Irish, and American newspapers and periodicals, both in print and online, as well as the novel itself and interview comments by its author, in search of this “battle line”. Are these eighteen professional readers following Ishiguro, or is there indeed a prejudicial line being drawn against fantasy literature, or against fantasy in literature?

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