Klara and the Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro

When the master storyteller returns with a new novel post his Nobel victory, it cannot be missed! The futuristic Klara and the Sun depicts a society where humanoids and mankind co-exist. However, with the society becoming mechanized and the life of people becoming mechanical, will emotions be overtaken completely by artificial intelligence? A story of the bond shared by Josie and her Artificial Friend (AF) Klara, the novel is a take on the thoughts of a humanoid and how they perceive the world, their responsibilities and emotions. In a world which selects AF’s just the way age old customs select bride as a companion, is there any leeway for true friendship? Klara and the Sun raises questions mirroring a society based on tomorrow. In the long run it will be interesting to see if the world takes a turn along the words of Ishiguro.

Klara is chosen by Josie’s Mother as a companion for her ailing daughter. But with Josie in her teens and wanting her own space and time is Klara really able to provide companionship or is a burden? Ironically one gets to notice that even though Klara has been brought for accompaniment, all the characters exemplify loneliness in some form or the other. The Mother is drowning in her sorrows of loss; Josie wants to have her own space and is actually alone most of the time; with nothing to do in a completely new place Klara too is fighting loneliness in her own way. This drives the readers to ask a vital question- are humans pushing away company and embracing loneliness? It has been observed that in a room full of people, majority would be working on their mobile phones rather than emphasizing on the people present in the same room. Are humans so heavily dependent on gadgets that they have started living in a virtual world, devoid of physical human presence? How healthy or unhealthy is the same for the mental health of the people?  

With time Klara meets Rick, Josie’s neighbor and childhood friend. The two already have A Plan to lead a life together. This fills Klara with joy but also leads her to think of her existence once the Plan is executed. Josie and Rick’s relation is as any teenage romance-full of care, fights, love, friendship but also retaining each one’s personality and self-esteem. This relation is also hope that in the future, love will not completely die and one will be prone to falling in love or experimenting and finding Mr. Right for themselves.

Mother is overburdened with the sorrows of having lost a daughter and losing Josie to illness now. In order to get out of this condition she wants to substitute her daughter with an AF. The Mother’s psyche is on the extreme and raises questions of ethics and morality about her actions. Moreover it asks a reflecting question to the readers- can humans be truly substituted with machines? Can their existence be that easily wiped out with mechanics? What about the relations that they share; would they not miss the life in the personality they know? Or would they embrace the coded humanoids with artificial intelligence which is nearly too perfect?

Ishiguro cleverly focuses on the environment by making the Sun as the prime source of energy for all AF’s and mankind. However, disturbance in this equilibrium through pollution, environmental degradation and irresponsibility will lead to disastrous effect on the planet and those living in it. The careful integration of the idea – Save the Earth- is much needed to make people aware of the consequences of their carelessness and what it can lead to. Klara in her mind thinks that the Sun being the source of all energy can cure Josie of her sickness. Will her faith hold true? Will the Sun be able to cure Josie? To what extent will Klara go to help Josie?

Klara and the Sun will change the meaning of love and emotion for the readers. Love need not only be the stereotypical relationships one hears or sees. It can also manifest itself in care, selflessness, guidance, friendship and companionship. With some or all of the above retaining their space in a man-machine relation, one can be assured, that emotion cannot be completely overtaken by screws and hinges, even in an advanced future. A book that is far ahead of its time, centering on the generations yet to come and their lifestyles, harping on the man-humanoid relationship, and transgressing the idea of emotion in several layers, Klara and the Sun is bound to win all hearts.

Postscript: The idea of humanoids in literature is not new. Going back a few decades, Satyajit Ray’s brilliant mind also conceptualized Professor Shonkhu. His in-depth ideologies in science and science –fiction literature cannot be overlooked while talking about a futuristic society. I would also like to mention that this very fact was brought out brilliantly by Aritra Basu in his paper which can be read here. Completing a century of his existence, Ray is immortal. His thought process and symbolism would go on living through his works- art, music, movies and  literature, baffling generations to come.

No of Pages: 307

Publisher: Faber and Faber / Penguin

Available on: Flipkart / Amazon / Audible

Rating: 4/5

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