Never Let Me Go (英語) ペーパーバック – 2011/12
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The top ten bestseller from the Nobel Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize In one of the most acclaimed novels of recent years, Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewed version of contemporary England. Narrated by Kathy, now thirty-one, Never Let Me Go dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world. A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.
Kazuo Ishiguro's eight books have won him world-wide renown and many honours, including the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Booker Prize. His work has been translated into over forty languages. The Remains of the Dayand Never Let Me Go have each sold in excess of one million copies in Faber editions alone, and both were adapted into highly acclaimed films. His most recent novel, The Buried Giant, was published in 2015, debuting at number 1 on the Sunday Times bestseller list.
蛇足ながら、本書はすぐれた翻訳者によって日本語にも訳されていて、少し立ち読みしてみたのだが、日本語訳の限界を感じた。原文で使われているふたつのキーワード donor / carer は、日本語で言えば「やまとことば」にも似た感覚の英語であり、日本なら「保育園の年少さん」に相当する子どもたちがままごとで使ってもさほど違和感のない単語である。それぞれ「あたえびと」、「いたわりびと」的な語感があって、それゆえに「寓話」の世界の雰囲気が全体に醸し出されているのだが、いっぽう日本語訳では、翻訳者が選択したように、どうしても「提供者」、「介護人」という漢語の訳語を当てる以外の選択肢はないと思われる。そしてこうした言葉の変換によって、日本語訳では「寓話」の雰囲気がほとんどかき消され、別の世界を舞台にしたサイエンスフィクションに思えてしまうのだ。しかし、これは英日翻訳が常に抱える逃れようのない現実だからしょうがない。
As the story unfolds, we realise that things are not as straightforward as the blandness of the narrative implies. Is this science fiction? Yet the horror is always tempered by the fatalism and acceptance of the narrator and her schoolmates.
Why does this far-fetched story ring so true? As gently as Kathy's narrative, it dawns on us that this is not science fiction, but a description of our own lives. The stoic acceptance the participants have for their truncated, pointless lives mirrors our own acceptance of our mortality, and the ultimate pointlessness of our own existence.
This book works because of the form of its narrative -- the soap-opera banality and fine-grained observation. In the detail, Ishiguro finds the soul of his characters, and us his readers.
Donors have only initials for their surnames, to signify their socially incomplete status and their partial anonymity as containers of spare body parts. Like all donors, the narrator, Kathy H, has limited knowledge. This is appropriate to her situation but frustrating for the reader, who wants to know more about this alternative reality, particularly how could the donor caste be so passive, so accepting of their fate? Even in the most extreme of human circumstances—the Holocaust, for example, or Stalin’s Gulag—there was resistance. Humans simply aren’t made to be passive receptors of a ghastly fate designated by others. Such a situation can be presented convincingly, as in Huxley’s Brave New World, but that novel presents a near-complete system of control, where members of the rigidly class-stratified society are designed in laboratories, are chemically produced, so that an epsilon is content to operate a lift all day. In Never, no explanation is given and the partial picture presented through the limited viewpoint of the narrator leaves too many questions unanswered. Explanations conveniently but awkwardly inserted in an unlikely character monologue cum question-and-answer session towards the end of the novel are inadequate and testify to the author’s awareness of the need for explanation rather than satisfy that need.
There is also a problem with the narrative voice. Reading such a limited narrator’s account for almost 300 pages becomes tedious, like listening to the conversation of schoolchildren for hours. The deliberately flat prose style and the endlessly detailed trivia frustrate the reader’s desire for a more engaging narrative voice. Some gain in power towards the end of the novel is not enough to offset the slog of getting there.
It may be objected that the position of the donors is simply an emphatic version of mortality and that therefore they represent all of us, but the problem of the limiting narrative voice and sketchy characterisation remains. Never’s alternative or exaggerated reality doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know about our ultimate fate, and our own thoughts about it may be more interesting than the flat monologue of Kathy H. Ishiguro’s novel is a sincere attempt to explore what it means to be human: our relationships with others, our need for love and achievement, and the inevitability of death, but the device of an incompletely imagined alternative reality narrated through a deliberately limited consciousness creates problems the novel doesn’t solve.
It isn't, by any means, a plot-driven book, it must be said, but surely few readers wanting a primarily racy read would plump for Ishiguro? My excuse is that I haven't read 'The Remains of the Day' and was unfamiliar with his work. There is an elegaic sweep to Kathy's narrative. She is describing an idyll which is in every sense past and gone, but there is a sinister subtext to her story which makes the idealised past into something of a nightmare. The author writes convincingly as a woman, which in my experience is quite rare from a male writer. We are told that the medical miracles are post-war and the period is otherwise vague, with only mentions of items such as cassettes placing it in an alternative 1970s or thereabouts, and the idioms of Kathy's speech generally steer clear of colloquialisms that would date it.
As with all intelligent fiction, it could be 'about' many things, from human companionship to the inevitability of death; from ethics to the impact of being an outsider, and it explores these themes and others with some success. My only niggles have been picked up already by some good reviews here, namely the unconvincing nature of a future in which human utopia is marred by what is effectively a slave race: Ishiguro evades description of the practicalities. This was presumably a conscious choice and must have seemed like a good idea at the time, and personally I didn't find it hard to accept, as other readers did, that the children of Hailsham bowed down meekly to their fate: I assumed that the technology which produced them was sophisticated enough to breed out wilful tendencies over time? Tommy's temper, after all, is considered unusual and destructive by his fellows. The cloned children are also institutionalised and their individuality - with the exception of their art - is discouraged. What I found more difficult, though, was the lack of context. After the atrocities of Mengele and his ilk, would the world have been so willing to condone the cloning of human beings specifically for slaughter? Why are these clones educated like other children when they will never work in the way others do and will die young? Wouldn't cloning beings like this have been a very inefficient way of securing donors gnerally? And how do these children deal with the lack of parents, when they know that other children have them (Kathy refers to motherly behaviour at least once)?
Clearly the ability to create human clones and the possibility that they will be exploited without ethical consideration are not beyond the realms of possibility and the potential ramifications are enormous, providing fertile ground for fiction, but for me, other efforts such as Churchill's play, 'A Number', have more impact. I felt that Ishiguro, in deliberately avoiding more explicit background detail, weakened my willingness to suspend disbelief. It's a haunting novel, but as with Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, I couldn't help feeling there was an indefinable something missing.
But the author has reached new height in his concealment of information as his usual tactics of telling a good story. His ingenious use of the first person in The Remains of the Day has fully demonstrated how the author conceals information from readers who try to understand the full picture of the story being narrated; here the writer presents factual information as objective as possible but the reader can only grasp the significance almost near the end of the story.
Never Let Me Go has successfully forced me to keep revising my guess of what is going on with the main character Kathy. When she says something regarding her job as a carer, I has been led or misled to infer she is working in a "home" nursing the elderly and the needy; later on when they have their fun in a confined environment, it almost forces me to infer they are living in an orphanage pretty much like what usually happens in a Dickensian novel. As the story goes on, I have to revise, again, my guess as these children might be the victims of human trafficking to satisfy the lustful desires of the outside world; my guess has further undergone revision, when Kathy reveals new clues and later solid information, that these children are "grown" like plants to fulfill certain functions as they might have been "cultivated" from stem cells to save their models. It is almost the end when they venture to visit their Madame do they find out their true identity: clones.
This story is the Brave New World narrated from a first person perspective. It is also like a retelling of The Outsider by Camus in a female voice because the characters implicitly touch upon the meaning of their existence except there is almost no meaning for their existence. Their world is cut off from the world peopled by the real human beings and heir only function is to provide organs for the real human beings; what remains of their own existence is their sense of being through their own subjectivity: impressions and memories. When Kathy tries to embrace their past in a place where they grew up together, she could not find the exact location except a profound sense of loss.
A very good read. It is remarkable that the author has found a new style for his story telling and succeeds with this sad story about love and death.
Having read it now I tend to side with those who think it's a work of genius. It's an easy book to read, with the bulk of it taking place during the narrator's school years. In the beginning it reads like a fairly conventional novel, but as it goes on you become aware of the somewhat sinister basis for the school existing (which I won't state here as it would ruin it for anyone who hasn't read the book yet).
It's a very disturbing book in many ways precisely because the characters don't act in the way you'd expect them to. The criticism that this makes it unbelievable/unrealistic is missing the point. The book is largely about the way that human beings accept unreasonable systems of power. The children are essentially being exploited, but because they've been brought up to accept it they do - just as human beings have accepted abhorrent political regimes throughout history or other crimes against humanity like slavery.
In general we tend to think that if we were living under some tyrannical political system we'd all refuse to go along with it. Yet the disturbing truth is probably what this book suggests - that when you're brought up within a particular social system it's easy to just give in and accept it. Worse, the children in the book actually seem to take pride in the school they were brought up in. They have a powerful sense of nostalgia for their school even though it's little more than a prison once you realise the purpose behind it.
Overall I found it a genuinely moving illustration of an aspect of human nature that we usually like to ignore. The fact that it's also a great page turner just elevates it even higher.
My biggest problem with this book was how two-dimensional the narrator one. The only character that had any real substance and backing to them was Ruth, the best friend of the narrator who is also kind of a bitch. Because of that, Ruth is focused on a hell of a lot in the narrators story and we see lots of different side to her, making her a really fleshed out character. But for me, Ruth was the only person who had this aspect to her. Kathy (the narrator) and Tommy (other important character - don’t want to ruin it for you) are both so flat, really. Romance between characters also felt flat and unsentimental. Whereas in the movie I was convinced by the friendships and relationships and it broke me into tiny teenage emotional pieces, the book fell on it’s face in trying to make me feel anything for any of the characters besides Ruth. And, in all honesty, all I felt for Ruth was annoyance because she was one of those people who if you met in real life, you’d slap her in ten minutes of hearing her talk. She’s kind of pretentious in some ways, and majorly two-faced.
The actual plot and premise of this book is awesome. I love the whole idea that goes behind it (once again, don’t want to spoil you if you haven’t read it or seen it). I like that it’s set during modern day, although it’s still a twist on what our modern day society is. This book isn’t exactly “dystopian”, but it has something about it that makes it seem kind of like it would fit nicely into that genre if it wanted. Saying this, though, I don’t really feel like Ishiguro let us in on enough. Nearing the end of the book, we get a lot of answers and it really made it all feel clearer at the time, but I still have so many questions I want answered. But I think that’s maybe how it’s supposed to be - we’re supposed to care, supposed to want to change something. But there are two sides in this story of the why, and the why not. It’s actually superbly interesting to think about it yourself.
Ishiguro’s storytelling itself was magnificent, and I found myself falling in love with his style of writing. This book isn’t classic-level difficult to read, but it’s not easy to swallow probably because of how much underlying stuff there is going on in it. A lot of this book will make you ask yourself important questions. It’s not a light-hearted read, but Ishiguro’s master way of writing and narrating make it seem less weighty, which is good for a topic that is actually really hard-hitting. I did feel, however, the plot was sometimes a little bit slow and Kathy kept taking us back and forth in timeline and kept repeating herself at odd little bits which was rather annoying because if you read quickly, you find yourself reading bits over and over again because of the repetitive ways she will tell you things.
This book is completely easy to get stuck into, and maybe it’s because I saw the movie first that I understood everything so well. I already knew what was going on and the reasoning behind things, so the big old shock reveals never had as much impact on me as they should have. Either way, I still blooming enjoyed this book. If, for people who’ve either read or watched or both, would want to share some of their views on this book and what it’s about, please talk to me! I’d love to hear what you think. It’s a crazy interesting topic.
P.S., sorry for being kind of secretive about what this book is about, but I feel like the mystery and intrigue should be kept at the highest levels possible to make this book as amazing as it truly is. I wish I hadn’t watched the movie first… so, if you have a chance to read this before seeing it, DO!
Now comes to the book. I have to admit, at first I got totally confused by the way the novel was written. It was like you got suddenly thrown into another world, and couldn't understand or do anything except watching everybody else in it carrying on their everyday life. All the myths and bigger pictures only got slowly revealed, and you got dragged and pushed by the same current that separated and reconnected childhood friends in that world.
I finished this book at 2am in the morning. By the time I closed the book, my face was literally washed by tears. Life is such a fragile existence, it could easily get twisted, shattered, and taken away from you and your beloved ones. We cherish our lives because there are dreams, there are all kinds of possibilities and happiness waiting for us to pursuit, at least that is what we believe all the time. What if all these do not exist in the first place? As said by Ms Emily, yes, it is just a myth, a dream, not a single trace of truth in it. The fate was set for Kathy, Tommy, Ruth, and the likes of them, on the date of their coming to existence in that world.
What disturbed me the most, is not how tragic and heartbreaking the ending was, but their quiet acceptance of their fate. Except for Tommy who went bonky again at the end, and being jokingly teased by Kathy as 'you crazy kid', the rest, including Kathy, they never even shout or scream out their fear for what waits them all the time, their frustration of their life never being the way they could have been.
What they did, in silent agreement that was always there deep down in their hearts, was holding on to one another, never let go, till the very end of their lives.
For those who don't know the book is about cloning and using those clones for organs, effectively harvesting them. However each grows up and is schooled, told what happens in the end yet they accept their fate.... maybe too easily. They eventually go on to care for other clones who are being harvested for organs over time and eventually decide when they are ready to die. From these brief statements you can understand why people could easily cry at this book.
If you ever get the time, do read it. It will at least open you mind a little to what it really means to be human.
It seemed strange that the students and the carers and donors were so remote from the rest of society, but it made sense in the end. That the writer is usually driving on quiet backroads, away from the mass of humanity, fits well with the seperation of she and her kind from mainstream society.
If the characters seem at times colourless, self-absorbed and petty, that fits too - either because of the circumstances of how they are brought up or perhaps - who knows - because of their nature.
Is this science fiction? Not that categories really matter, but yes, I think it is. SF as it should be - well written, emotionally involving, humane, dealing with big social questions, posing the What If question in a superbly crafted novel.
The ending explains almost everything,including why things sometimes seem to be run on a shoestring, except why the "students" dont just escape. Perhaps some do. The author never considers the question. Perhaps this is the books one flaw. On the other hand it adds to the mystery and sense of terrible inevitability.
Did this book win any prizes? It deserves them.