Goodreads: What was on your mind when you wrote Klara and the Sun?
Kazuo Ishiguro: There is usually one big thing behind each of my books and then a constellation of other little things. At the center was this question: What does it mean to love another human being, particularly in an age when we’re questioning whether we can map out everything about a person through data and algorithms? It’s that old question: Is there a soul? Maybe there isn’t anything in there that’s unique that can’t be reproduced. Perhaps we are reducible to just data and algorithms.
Many of my other books have been about things like that. But the age we’re in, and the age we seem to be hurtling toward, made me look at that same question in a slightly different way.
This is an excerpt from an interview with author Kazuo Ishiguro which was published on Goodreads. And while I appreciate that Ishiguro tried to address the issue of love in an age of “data and algorithms”, for me the book fell short of that. It felt more like he was mechanically ticking off all the boxes for our present day agenda: pollution, technology, women’s independence, and false gods.
Here is a brief summary of the novel: Josie is quite ill. We never know what her disease is, but we know that she becomes terribly weak and needs to rest; we know that her mother has lost one daughter already and is all the more concerned about losing Josie. When Josie sees Klara in the storefront window, she knows that is the one for her. Klara is the AF (Artificial Friend) that Josie wants. But, Josie’s mother wants Klara for something much more. She hopes that Klara will learn Josie well enough to become her daughter if Josie dies.
As if a robot can be a friend.
As if a robot can replace a daughter.
Because the Sun provides its “special nourishment” to Klara, she goes to Mr. McBain’s barn (where she can see it set) to ask the Sun to heal Josie. If the Sun can make Klara strong, she reasons, why can’t it restore Josie to full health? It was bizarre to me, though, to read about a robot essentially praying to the Sun, and then realizing that her prayer was at first unheard because she hadn’t done anything about the pollution caused by a huge machine outside the store where she stood in the window.
It was all very strange, and I could not wrap my mind around a robot taking on human characteristics to such a degree that it could replace humans. I cannot wrap my mind around the idea that humans think they can be God in what they can create. For me, Kazuo Ishiguro did not answer any questions about what it means to love at all.