Klara and the Sun
Then at last she moved. She went towards the crossing – as the man had been signaling for her to do – taking slow steps at first, then hurrying. She had to stop again, to wait like everyone else at the lights, and the man stopped waving, but he was watching her so anxiously, I again thought he might step out in front of the taxis. But he calmed himself and walked towards his end of the crossing to wait for her. And as the taxis stopped, and the Coffee Cup Lady began to cross with the rest, I saw the man raise a fist to one of his eyes, in the way I’d seen some children do in the store when they got upset. Then the Coffee Cup Lady reached the RPO Building side, and she and the man were holding each other so tightly they were like one large person, and the Sun, noticing, was pouring his nourishment on them. I still couldn’t see the Coffee Cup Lady’s face, but the man had his eyes tightly shut, and I wasn’t sure if he was very happy or very upset.
‘Those people seem so pleased to see each other,’ Manager said. And I realized she’d been watching them as closely as I had.
‘Yes, they seem so happy,’ I said. ‘But it’s strange because they also seem upset.’
‘Oh, Klara,’ Manager said quietly. ‘You never miss a thing, do you?’
Then Manager was silent for a long time, holding her sign in her hand and staring across the street, even after the pair had gone out of sight. Finally she said:
‘Perhaps they hadn’t met for a long time. A long, long time. Perhaps when they last held each other like that, they were still young.’
‘Do you mean, Manager, that they lost each other?’
She was quiet for another moment. ‘Yes,’ she said, eventually. ‘That must be it. They lost each other. And perhaps just now, just by chance, they found each other again.’
Manager’s voice wasn’t like her usual one, and though her eyes were on the outside, I thought she was now looking at nothing in particular. I even started to wonder what passers-by would think to see Manager herself in the window with us for so long.
Then she turned from the window and came past us, and as she did so she touched my shoulder.
‘Sometimes,’ she said, ‘at special moments like that, people feel a pain alongside their happiness. I’m glad you watch everything so carefully, Klara.’
Then Manager was gone, and Rosa said, ‘How strange. What could she have meant?’
‘Never mind, Rosa,’ I said to her. ‘She was just talking about the outside.’
Rosa began to discuss something else then, but I went on thinking about the Coffee Cup Lady and her Raincoat Man, and about what Manager had said. And I tried to imagine how I would feel if Rosa and I, a long time from now, long after we’d found our different homes, saw each other again by chance on a street. Would I then feel, as Manager had put it, pain alongside my happiness?
‘Oh, you must mean Mr McBain’s barn.’
‘It’s maybe not really a barn because it’s open on two sides. More a shelter, I guess. Mr McBain keeps stuff in there. I went there once with Rick.’
‘I wonder why the Sun would go for his rest to a place like that.’
‘Yeah,’ Josie said. ‘You’d think the Sun would need a palace, minimum. Maybe Mr McBain’s done a big upgrade since I was last there.’
‘I wonder when it was Josie went there.’
‘Oh, a long time ago now. Rick and I were still quite little. Before I got sick.’
‘Was there anything unusual nearby? A gateway? Or perhaps steps going down into the earth?’
‘Uh uh. Nothing like that. Just the barn. And we were glad of it too because we were little and we’d got really tired walking all that way. Mind you, it was nowhere near sunset. If there’s an entrance to a palace, it might be hidden. Maybe the doors open just before the Sun gets there? I saw a movie like that once, where all these bad guys had their HQ inside a volcano, and what you thought was a lava lake on top slid open just before they came down in helicopters. Maybe the Sun’s palace works the same way.
‘So what if I sometimes want to act different? Who wants to be the same all the time? The trouble with Rick is he always gets accusing when I’m any way he doesn’t like. It’s because he wants me to stay the way I was when we were small kids.’
‘I don’t really think that’s what Rick wishes.’
‘Then what’s all this? All this no shape, hiding stuff? I don’t see what’s kind about it. That’s Rick’s problem. He doesn’t want to grow up. At least, his mother doesn’t want him to and he goes along with it. The idea is he lives with his mom for ever and ever. How’s that going to help our plan? Any time I show any sign of trying to grow up, he gets sulky.’
I said nothing to this, and Josie continued to lie there with her eyes closed. She did fall asleep then, but just before she did, she said quietly:
‘Maybe. Maybe he did mean it to be kind.’
‘I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m a little surprised.’
‘Oh? Why are you surprised, dear?’
‘Well, I…Frankly, I’m surprised because Miss Helen’s request concerning Rick appears very sincere. I’m surprised someone would desire so much a path that would leave her in loneliness.’
‘And that’s what surprises you?’
‘Yes. Until recently, I didn’t think that humans could choose loneliness. That there were sometimes forces more powerful than the wish to avoid loneliness.’
Miss Helen smiled. ‘You really are a sweet one. You don’t say as much, but I can tell what you’re thinking. A mother’s love for her son. Such a noble thing, to override the dread of loneliness. And you might not be wrong. But let me tell you, there are all kinds of other very good reasons why, in a life like mine, one might prefer loneliness. I’ve often made such a choice in the past. I did so, for instance, rather than stay with Rick’s father. Late father, very sadly, though Rick has no memory of him. Even so, he was for a while my husband, and not an entirely useless one at that. It’s thanks to him we’re able to get by this way, even if we don’t exactly live in splendor. Here’s Rick coming back again. Oh, he’s not. He wishes to stay out there and sulk further.’
‘Yes. I believe they told me everything.’
‘And what do you think? Do you suppose you can pull it off? Perform this role?’
‘It won’t be easy. But I believe if I continue to observe Josie carefully, it will be within my abilities.’
‘Then let me ask you something else. Let me ask you this. Do you believe in the human heart? I don’t mean simply the organ, obviously. I’m speaking in the poetic sense. The human heart. Do you think there is such a thing? Something that makes each of us special and individual? And if we just suppose that there is. Then don’t you think, in order to truly learn Josie, you’d have to learn not just her mannerisms but what’s deeply inside her? Wouldn’t you have to learn her heart?’
‘And that could be difficult, no? Something beyond even your wonderful capabilities. Because an impersonation wouldn’t do, however skillful. You’d have to learn her heart, and learn it fully, or you’ll never become Josie in any sense that matters.’
A public bus had stopped beside some abandoned fruit boxes. As the Father steered around it, the car behind us made angry horn noises. Then there were more angry horns, but these were further away and not aimed at us.
‘The heart you speak of,’ I said. ‘It might indeed be the hardest part of Josie to learn. It might be like a house with many rooms. Even so, a devoted AF, given time, could walk through each of those rooms, studying them carefully in turn, until they became like her own home.’
The Father sounded our own horn at a car trying to enter the traffic line from a side street.
‘But then suppose you stepped into one of those rooms,’ he said, ‘and discovered another room within it. And inside that room, another room still. Rooms within rooms within rooms. Isn’t that how it might be, trying to learn Josie’s heart? No matter how long you wandered through those rooms, wouldn’t there always be others you’d not yet entered?’
I considered this for a moment, then said: ‘Of course, a human heart is bound to be complex. But it must be limited. Even if Mr Paul is talking in the poetic sense, there’ll be an end to what there is to learn. Josie’s heart may well resemble a strange house with rooms inside rooms. But if this were the best way to save Josie, then I’d do my utmost. And I believe there’s a good chance I’d be able to succeed.’
His switch of subject was highly unwelcome, but anxious not to lose his good will, I said nothing and waited.
‘I think I hate Capaldi because deep down I suspect he may be right. That what he claims is true. That science has now proved beyond doubt there’s nothing so unique about my daughter, nothing there our modern tools can’t excavate, copy, transfer. That people have been living with one another all this time, centuries, loving and hating each other, and all on a mistaken premise. A kind of superstition we kept going while we didn’t know better. That’s how Capaldi sees it, and there’s a part of me that fears he’s right. Chrissie, on the other hand, isn’t like me. She may not know it yet, but she’ll never let herself be persuaded. If the moment ever comes, never mind how well you play your part, Klara, never mind how much she wishes it to work, Chrissie just won’t be able to accept it. She’s too…old-fashioned. Even if she knows she’s going against the science and the math, she still won’t be able to do it. She just won’t stretch that far. But I’m different. I have…a kind of coldness inside me she lacks. Perhaps it’s because I’m an expert engineer, as you put it. This is why I find it so hard to be civil around people like Capaldi. When they do what they do, say what they say, it feels like they’re taking from me what I hold most precious in this life. Am I making sense?’
‘That’s very sweet of you, Paul. And I’m sorry if I was rude earlier. This might surprise you, but I’m not actually angry about the way we’ve become. If one child has more ability than another, then it’s only right the brighter one gets the opportunities. The responsibilities too. I accept that. But what I won’t accept is that Rick can’t have a decent life. I refuse to accept this world has become so cruel. Rick wasn’t lifted, but he can still go far, do very well.’
‘I wish him the very best. All I’m saying is that there are all kinds of ways to lead a successful life.’
‘Please don’t go away just yet,’ I said. ‘Please give me one more brief moment. I know I failed to perform the service I promised you in the city and I’ve no right to ask anything further of you. But I’m remembering how delighted you were that day Coffee Cup Lady and Raincoat Man found each other again. You were so delighted and couldn’t help showing it. So I know just how much it matters to you that people who love one another are brought together, even after many years. I know the Sun always wishes them well, perhaps even helps them to find each other. Please then consider Josie and Rick. They’re still very young. Should Josie pass away now, they’ll be parted forever. If only you could give her special nourishment, as I saw you do for Beggar Man and his dog, then Josie and Rick could go together into their adult lives just as they wished for in their kind picture. I can myself vouch that their love is strong and lasting, just like that of Coffee Cup Lady and Raincoat Man.’
‘I’m sure you’re right, Klara. But what do you mean, “continue Josie”? What’s that mean?’
‘Manager, I did all I could to learn Josie and had it become necessary, I would have done my utmost. But I don’t think it would have worked out so well. Not because I wouldn’t have achieved accuracy. But however hard I tried, I believe now there would have remained something beyond my reach. The Mother, Rick, Melania Housekeeper, the Father. I’d never have reached what they felt for Josie in their hearts. I’m now sure of this, Manager.’
‘Well, Klara, I’m glad you feel things worked out for the best.’
‘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.’
Thoughts after reading
The uniqueness of the human mind turns out to be all kinds of dark sides, selfishness, promise breaking, and self-deception. This is the answer given by Ishiguro that is fundamentally difference between the perfect artificial intelligence and human being. Sadly, I can't find a better answer than this. Klara and the Sun have both kept their promises. But even with "miracles", Josie and Rick were not able to stay together in the end. The emotion of Josie asking Klara to send the painting was extremely real, so did Rick's firm confirmation to Klara on his love to Josie, but in the end, why does everyone turn out to be self-deception?
终手，她动了。她朝人行横道走去——那个男人一直在示意她过来——起初步履缓慢，接着加快了脚步。她不得不再度停了下来，和其他人一样等红绿灯，男人不再挥手，但两眼一直焦灼地望着她。我又在担心他会跨出路沿，站到出租车流前面了。可他镇定了下来，走向他那一头的横道口，就在那儿等着她。等到出租车流终于停住，咖啡杯女士开始和其他人一起过马路的时候，我看到男人举起一只握成拳头的手按住一只眼睛，就像我在商店里看到的有些孩子在不安时会做的动作。接着咖啡杯女士来到了 RPO 大楼那一侧，她和那个男人紧紧地搂在了一起，两个人看上去仿佛融合成了一个更大的人形；太阳注意到了这一起，将他的滋养倾泻在他俩身上。我依然看不到咖啡杯女士的脸，但那个男人的眼睛紧紧地闭着，我不确定他究竟是非常开心还是非常不安。