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Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (London, Faber & Faber, 2005, 282 pages, £6.99, ISBN 0571224113)—Alain Blayac, Université Paul Valéry - Montpellier 3



Shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize, as When We Were Orphans had been in its time (2000), Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go presents the life and coming of age of a group of students in the gloomy, chilly, narrow England of the 1990s.


Basically a science-fiction story on cloning, told in the first person by Kathy H., it describes the attempts of the narrator, now a thirty-one-year-old woman, to come to terms with her childhood in the apparently idyllic Hailsham (“a kind of golden time” [76]). The characters move about between the world of yesterday (painful) and that of today (frightening) in a narrative pregnant with enigmas, silences and secrets.


In a tale of humanity, conscience, love, Ishiguro comes back to his favourite themes, mystery, submission, duty, the aftermath of the war, the fear of the outside world etc. He analyzes the complexities of the human soul and the aura remembrances from things past have in a world marked by the fragility of life, and develops an elegiac meditation on death and the loss of innocence through the kaleidoscope of memory which (re)creates a precise, clear-cut, fictional universe.


As all of Ishiguro's novels, Never Let Me Go exudes a constant tension, an all-pervading angst (and that from its very title). Lives are brutally interrupted, worlds destroyed. Kathy struggles to deliver the past out of oblivion. All is superficially quiet, serene, limpid, but underneath there lurks a sombre, blurred, murky reality which a single word, inadvertently uttered, suffices to disclose or liberate.


Once again Ishiguro succeeds in captivating his reader, not so much through his plot (somewhat reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale) as through the sheer construction of it. Never Let Me Go may well be his most disturbing novel, in which he once again probes into the quintessence of the English soul and culture.



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