‘Perhaps all humans are lonely. At least potentially.’
It’s been a long time since I last read a book by Ishiguro – 17 years ago to be exact and the book was ‘Never Let Me Go’ and is still one of the best dystopian novels I have ever read.
In ‘Klara and the Sun’ I felt the author was exploring a similar theme – the question about what it is to be human, to love and how to best care for others. What I love about this particular novel most though is that it’s driven by nothing other than an AI’s quest to focus on the well-being of the sick child she is bought for as a companion.
Set in the future, Klara is an AF (Artificial Friend) for Josie, a girl whose health is fragile and who is lonely stuck at home all day. As Klara gets to know Josie’s history and family circumstances, she learns how to respond to the girl’s needs by observation and careful enquiry. The story then follows a path on which Klara discovers that rationality can accommodate belief, that hope can be found in unexpected places and that to have a good heart you don’t necessarily need to have a biological one.
This is a story narrated by a machine, about a machine and I found myself loving the machine, because Klara’s compassionate kindness and her capacity for wonder and awe is beautifully portrayed. It also asks the question what makes us love a particular person, and whether there is such a concept as deep-seated individual uniqueness.
‘We’re both of us sentimental. We can’t help it. Our generation still carry the old feelings. A part of us refuses to let go. The part that wants to keep believing there’s something unreachable inside each of us. Something that’s unique.’
Finally, this story is also a carefully and compellingly constructed philosophical thought experiment, one of those rare masterpieces that I will want to re-read.
‘It’s not enough just being clever. You have to get along with others.’