For four decades now, Kazuo Ishiguro has written eloquently about balancing act of remembering without succumbing irrevocably to the past. Memory and the accounting of memory, its burdens and its reconciliation, have been his subjects.

With ''Kalara and the Sun,'' I began to see how he mastered the adjacent theme of obsolescence. What is it like to inhabit a world whose mores and ideas have passed you by? What happens to the people who must be cast aside in order for others to move forward? 

About a half way through ''Klara and the Sun,'' a woman meeting Klara for the first time blurts out the kind of quiet part-out-line we rely on to get our bearings in a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.

''One never knows how to greet a guest like you,'' she says. ''After all, are you a guest at all? Or do I treat you like a vacuum cleaner?''

This is Ishiguro's eighth novel, and Klara, who narrates it, is an Artificial Friend, a humanoid machine - short dark hair; kind eyes; distinguished by her powers of observation - who has come to act as companion for 14-year old Josie.

Like that childhood stalwart Corduroy, she's been sitting in a store, hoping to be chosen by the right child. AF's aren't tutors. They're not baby sitters [though they are sometimes chaperones], nor servants [though they are expected to take commands].

They're nominally friends, but not equals. ''You said you'd never get an AF,'' Josie's friend Rick says, accusingly - which makes Klara the mark of some rite of passage they didn't want to accede to.

Her ostensible purpose is help get Josie through the lonely and difficult years until college. They are lonely because in Josie's world, most kids don't go to school but study at home using ''oblongs.''

They are difficult because Josi suffers from an unspecified illness, about which her mother projects unspecified guilt.

''Klara and the Sun'' takes place in the uncomfortably near future, and banal language is redeployed with sinister portent. Elite workers have been ''substituted'', their labor now performed by A.I. Clothing and houses are described as ''high rank.'' Privileged children are ''lifted,'' a process meant to optimize them for success.

Readers of Ishiguro's 2005 novel. ''Never Let Me Go,'' will viscerally recall the sense of foreboding, all this awakens. If I am being cagey about it, it's to preserve that effect. But for the inhabitants of the novel, the older generation of whom remember the wat things were, these conditions have been normalized, to use the banal language of our own era.

Here is Josie's father, a former engineer: ''Honestly? I think the substitutions were the best things that happened.... to me I really believe they helped me to distinguish what's important what isn't.

And where I live now, there are many fine people who feel exactly the same way.'' Through Klara, we pick up bits of overheard conversation: a mention : of ''fascist leanings'' here; a reference to Josie's mysteriously departed sister there; the woman outside the playhouse who protests Klara's presence: ''First they take the jobs. Now they take the seats at the theater?''

In ''Kalara and the Sun,'' obsolescence reaches its mass conclusion; Whole classes of workers have been replaced by machines, which themselves are subject to replacement.

It nearly happens to Klara. In the story's first section, a new, improved model of AF arrives and bumps her to the back of the store.

The World Students Society thanks review author Radhika Jones, who is the editor in chief of Vanity Fair and holds a doctorate in English and comparative Literature from Columbia University.


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