fiction, review

Never Let Me Go

Indonesian edition's cover
Indonesian edition’s cover

Is it a surrealistic work of fiction? Or is it just too absurd for us to understand? Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is one of those which delivers the thoughts and world view of its creator by way of an all-consuming unreality, though the unruly, bitter reality is obviously there to see. First published in 2005, it takes place in an unknown place of Hailsham and tries to communicate the value, and issue, of humanity and humanism. The grim atmosphere takes the serious issue up to the next level the reader has to prepare themselves.

Inside the school of Hailsham, children are being “created” and prepared to provide organ donation for people outside their exclusive, closed world. They are, in a nutshell, taught and educated to be great donors. But they are not told what they will be in the future, what they will do with their bodies. The guardians in Hailsham raise them as normal kids, as normal teenagers, who will be then released to the outside world to do what they are meant to do. Setting foot in the “real” world, it dawns on them that they do not own their lives, that they are deliberately programmed to give their organs, the parts of their lives, away for the benefits of other people. At first, they have no objection to it. But inside, they know that they want something more. They want the real lives of the real people, of the real human beings, which is completely impossible.

Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are three of those programmed human beings in Hailsham. Programmed as they are, their characterization is not simply heartless. They have feelings and emotions still, too human to be merely donor machines, in fact. And, like any other males and females of the ordinary world, they fall in love and hate, they feel sad, regret, anger, suspicious, they cannot make any choices yet somehow, at the same time, they’re rebelious. They are the epitome of today’s modern people almost everywhere, being programmed to do something for the benefits of others while they mostly cannot do anything about it because it is just the way they live, how their lives are supposed to be. In fact, they are not only programmed, they are the programme itself, set up under the control and influence of those in power, who are too much arrogant and ambitious to care about the fates of others.

Never Let Me Go is a book about what subtly happens these days: the degrading value of humanity, the rise of technology which in turn changes the shape not only of our society, but also of our human nature, the arrogance of modernity which turns human bodies into heartless robots to the advantage of selfish, ambitious maniacs who are neglectful of the horrid consequences endured by those bodies in their hands, and how the said arrogance is all about politics, about who supports whom and who stands up for whom. Ishiguro describes all that in a surrealistic, untouchable narrative. His story is so absurd, yet what it brings with it is so crystal clear. Every scene and every page of narration are not something we can easily reach and comprehend right away, and his portrayal of every character is a mix of heartless machines and natural human beings. Nothing is simple about Never Let Me Go, for, to my thinking, Ishiguro wants us to understand our state of humanity through a tinted lens which can, hopefully, trigger our dull senses and stubborn minds. Though hard to swallow, Never Let Me Go is equipped with a slow yet determined plot and marvelous storytelling. The reader may be left bored after several pages, and has to continue reading it with a tired mind. But at least they will get something meaningful and valuable from it and be awed by Ishiguro’s creation of a story.

All in all, I cannot say that Never Let Me Go is a book of which genre I generally like, but its idea so amazed me that I must admit that it’s a work of genius. The only problem that slowed me down while reading it was its slow flow, but some people may don’t mind it and set it aside and go under its lesson instead. This book is, of course, recommended.

Rating: 3/5

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