Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go

Few other contemporary novelists understand the feelings of regret and loss better than Kazuo Ishiguro and he confirms this in his latest novel Never Let Me Go. It was published and nominated for the Booker prize last year but I managed to get around to reading it only last weekend. The novel is great but it never reaches the sublime heights of the earlier Ishiguro's masterpiece The Remains of the Day. Those who are familiar with Ishiguro's style will find nothing new in this novel. The same understatement of emotional aspects of drama, elision at crucial narrative moments and the narrator's almost pathological fear of exoposing one's true self to the reader by means of convoluted and digressive story telling. Perhaps it was this familiarity that left me somewhat unmoved at the end of the novel, although the ending here is even more downbeat than his earlier books.

The novel tells the story of a school meant for human clones who are being raised as organ donors. The narrator is a thirty-one year old Kathy H. who is reminiscing about her days at her childhood school Hailsham and specially her relationships with two of her friends Tommy and Ruth. The novel also recounts her attempts to confront the truth of her own existence and that of her friends (which turns out to be quite horrible).

I thought the novel was quite good. It makes some powerful points about the importance of love and friendship, the brevity and fragility of human existence and the inevitability of the feelings of regret and loss while confronting memories of times gone by. The language and the style, although on surface extremely emotionless and spare, is highly evocative. But still I finished the novel with a slight sense of frustration. Never in the book I felt that Ishiguro was even cursorily interested in the science and ethics of cloning. I mean, I understand that the novel is a kind of allegory and those superficial things are not as important but still the cloning aspect just seemed like added from the outside just to make the novel "different". There was this aspect about artistic instinct and creativity being used to prove the existence of soul. It seemed easy and tired as an idea or thematic construcy. Perhaps Ishiguro meant it to be only a narrative and plot device. Also it was hard to believe how the clones have the exact and entire emotional make-up of a normal human being but what they don't have is a basic self-preservation instinct. or, perhaps Ishiguro was trying to make some point about the benign acceptance of the fact of the finitude of human existence. Very fatalist and very sad!

Pick up the book if interested in a nice melancholy weekend :)

Reviews from Slate and London Times.

Complete Review page of the book.

Kazuo Ishiguro's page on the contemporary writers website.


bobogler said...

you seem to be confused about what to copy from which review of this book..... i would suggest you to read the book first before analyzing its reviews by other people......
anyways you are right in saying that the book is not as good as remains of the day

Alok said...

Oops. Plagiarism... I hope they don't pull down this blog too. Hahaha :)

thanks for commenting anyway...

boobogler said...

mind you , but i think indians are experts in this art

Alok said...

hey are you the same commenter...? you have got an extra 'O' from yesterday in your name.