James Purdon at Literary Review:
There is a story about René Descartes according to which the philosopher once owned a female automaton so convincing that a superstitious mariner, seeing the machine in operation, declared it the work of the devil and threw it into the sea. In some versions, Descartes is said to have built the automaton to replace his illegitimate daughter, Francine, who died in childhood. Though apocryphal, the tale persists because it combines a moving human tragedy with an intellectual problem – the relationship between mind and matter – that was central to Descartes’s own philosophy. It is a thought experiment disguised as a fairy tale, or perhaps vice versa.
Klara and the Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel since being awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature – put me in mind of this story, partly because it considers artificial life, lost children and parental grief, but also because it seems to occupy that same space at the intersection of philosophy and fairy tale.