Klara the Solarpunk

Evan Atlas
7 min readMar 4, 2022

I just finished reading Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, and found it to be a beautiful and heartbreaking work worthy of discussion. Something that stood out to me is its relationship to the solarpunk genre. I’ve briefly referenced this genre/style/attitude/aesthetic/worldview in previous posts. But this novel seems like a great opportunity to expand on my view of it and why it’s useful.

The Lens

In this post we’ll be examining Klara and the Sun as a work of solarpunk fiction. For our present purposes, I describe solarpunk as an orientation towards a future that blends high-tech protopianism with a spiritual, reverential, collaborative relationship with nature most associated today with indigenous, pre-industrial cultures. I believe that solarpunk’s core assertion is that we can reclaim our role as lovers of nature without sacrificing the benefits of technological progress; and that, in fact, these branches of development must be wedded to each other. Thus, one of the most common emblems of solarpunk is the illustration of a forest-like city. Solarpunk is distinctly future-looking, and avoids the pre/trans fallacy by integrating the old with the new rather than privileging either.

Certain interpretations of solarpunk are colored by more anti-capitalist and anarchistic philosophy, but it’s hardly necessary to share such views in order to be a solarpunk. By examining some themes in Klara and the Sun, it will become more clear how technology and nature can be partners rather than enemies.

The Setting

The book is seemingly set in the near future. The distinguishing feature being the existence of “Artificial Friends” (AFs) like Klara, who are presented as intelligent, emotional, (and, as we’ll see) spiritual machines. And, additionally, we learn that it is common for parents to “lift” their children — a euphemism for genetically altering them to make them healthier, more intelligent, and who knows what else.

Ishiguro’s style leaves the reader guessing at other details in a pleasant way — in the way a good horror-mystery novel does. It is probably fair to call the book a work of science fiction, though it does less world-building and relies on the reader filling in certain things. Personally, I wan’t to find out exactly what the “Cootings” machine was…

Evan Atlas

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