Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

January 06, 20245 min read

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro is an intimate novel, exploring the boundaries of what makes us ‘human’.

We follow Klara, an AF or Artificial Friend, who begins her journey in a store filled with other AF’s. From the start, we notice how her observation and wonder far surpass those around her, making her uniquely sensitive to the world. The story progresses with Josie - a young girl who takes an interest in buying Klara - and I won’t spoil what happens, but we are swept into a heart-wrenching plot in which Klara takes the main stage.

Throughout it all, we see snippets of the world filtered through the unique lens that is Klara. These insights question us to ask what it is that make us so different from non-human intelligence. Ishiguro takes point to illustrate the myriad of ways in which love manifests itself, from Klara’s sacrificial, expansive love that keeps giving, to someone like Josie’s mum who we observe loves with constriction, unable to relinquish control.

The Sun holds a special place in this book, being the provider of energy for Klara, and it’s the first person who Klara loves. She enters unspoken, sacred agreements with the Sun, and fulfils her part of these agreements with devotion.

It is beautiful to see how the process of keen observation of the natural world, can lead to ceaseless amazement and worship, as we feel Klara does. It reminds me of how nearly all ancient cultures throughout the world respected the world around them, and how they understood themselves in relation to world.

We are living in a very interesting time, where Large Language Models (LLM’s) such as ChatGPT and others, are providing ‘human’ answers. I wonder if this emerging intelligence, will see the natural, interconnected intelligence of the world around us, rather than use blunt science to reify every process into its own box, just as Klara did.

At the same time, what was becoming clear to me was the extent to which humans, in their wish to escape loneliness, made maneuvers that were very complex and hard to fathom, and I saw it was possible that the consequences of Morgan’s Falls had at no stage been within my control.

‘I’m very happy here. I have no wish other than to be Josie’s AF.’

I stared at the glass sheets. The Sun’s reflection, though still an intense orange, was no longer blinding and as I studied more carefully the Sun’s face framed within the outermost rectangle, I began to appreciate that I wasn’t looking at a single picture; that in fact there existed a different version of the Sun’s face on each of the glass surfaces, and what I might at first have taken for a unified image was in fact seven separate ones superimposed one over the other as my gaze penetrated from the first sheet through to the last. Although his face on the outermost glass was forbidding and aloof, and the one immediately behind it was, if anything, even more unfriendly, the two beyond that were softer and kinder. There were three further sheets, and though it was hard to see much of them on account of their being further back, I couldn’t help estimating that these faces would have humorous and kind expressions. In any case, whatever the nature of the images on each glass sheet, as I looked at them collectively, the effect was of a single face, but with a variety of outlines and emotions.

‘I suppose I’m saying Josie and I will always be together at some level, some deeper one, even if we go out there and don’t see each other any more. I can’t speak for her. But once I’m out there, I know I’ll always keep searching for someone just like her. At least like the Josie I once knew. So it wasn’t ever a deception, Klara. Whoever that was you were dealing with back then, if they could see right into my heart, and right into Josie’s, they’d know you weren’t trying to pull some fast one.’

As I sit here on this hard ground, I have been thinking again about Rick’s words that morning and I’m sure he is correct. I no longer fear that the Sun will feel cheated or misled, or that he will consider retribution. In fact, it could be that even as I was making my plea to him, he already knew Josie and Rick were bound to go their separate ways, and yet understood that, despite everything, their love would last. When he’d posed his question – about children really understanding what it meant to love – I believe he was already sure of the answer and was simply raising the question for my benefit. I even think, at that moment, he may have been thinking about the Coffee Cup Lady and Raincoat Man – after all, we’d been talking about them the previous moment. Perhaps the Sun was supposing that after many years, and after many changes, Josie and Rick might once again meet as the Coffee Cup Lady and Raincoat Man had done.

Mr Capaldi believed there was nothing special inside Josie that couldn’t be continued. He told the Mother he’d searched and searched and found nothing like that. But I believe now he was searching in the wrong place. There was something very special, but it wasn’t inside Josie. It was inside those who loved her. That’s why I think now Mr Capaldi was wrong and I wouldn’t have succeeded. So I’m glad I decided as I did.’

Read on 31st December 2023

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