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“Many Strange Tongues” in the Fenlands: The Buried Giant as Brexit Allegory?
English Studies, Pages: 1 - 20
Swansea University Author: Richard Robinson
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DOI (Published version): 10.1080/0013838x.2022.2150941
The Buried Giant is now established as an uncanny precursor of an emerging ‘Brexlit’ canon. However, Ishiguro’s long-held interest in how nations other than Britain forget, remember and memorialise their pasts, together with his response to civil conflict and resolution in the 1990s, should modify o...
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The Buried Giant is now established as an uncanny precursor of an emerging ‘Brexlit’ canon. However, Ishiguro’s long-held interest in how nations other than Britain forget, remember and memorialise their pasts, together with his response to civil conflict and resolution in the 1990s, should modify overly ‘presentist’ Brexit interpretations. Integrating Giorgio Agamben’s work on the Greek idea of stasis as civil war, I argue that The Buried Giant tests the ethical limits of amnesty, revealing both the culpability of national amnesia and injurious wielding of reawakened collective memory. The essay then turns to allegory and allegoresis, considering the novel’s refusal of the dystopian mode, despite that genre’s concern with the state’s nullification of memory. In the end, TBG frustrates a point-by-point allegorical decoding of its ancient Britons and Saxons. Acknowledging the historical continuity between the 1990s and the post-Brexit present, I argue for a political unconscious in the text which, in taking us to a ‘pre-posterous’ place before England was, is timely in its untimeliness. If the novel is to be read as Brexit allegory, this must be to understand Brexit less as a singular, aberrant crisis and more as a contraction within the longue durée.
Kazuo Ishiguro; twentieth-century Britishfiction;twenty-first century Britishfiction; crisis; Brexit; allegory; dystopia
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences