Never Let Me Go

Introduction by David Sexton

Introduction by David Sexton
Look inside
Hardcover
$27.00 US
On sale Apr 25, 2023 | 312 Pages | 978-0-593-53655-1
From the Nobel laureate and author of Klara and the Sun, a beautiful hardcover edition of one of his most acclaimed novels: a deeply moving and stunningly original love story with a startling twist

As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.

Everyman's Library pursues the highest production standards, printing on acid-free cream-colored paper, with full-cloth cases with two-color foil stamping, decorative endpapers, silk ribbon markers, European-style half-round spines, and a full-color illustrated jacket. Contemporary Classics include an introduction, a select bibliography, and a chronology of the author's life and times.
from the Introduction by David Sexton

‘Derivative writers seem versatile because they imitate many others, past and present. Artistic originality has only its own self to copy’ (Nabokov).
 
Kazuo Ishiguro is the great original among contemporary British novelists.
 
Born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954, he moved with his parents and his sister to Guildford in Surrey in 1960, aged five, his father, Shizuo, a research oceanographer, having taken a job with the British government. Both his father and his mother Shizuko came from samurai families and they left behind a traditional, large samurai family house in Nagasaki.
 
For many years Kazuo expected this move to Britain to be temporary but he ended up staying, going to the local primary school in Guildford for six years, and then to Woking County Grammar School for the next seven, until 1973. Although he continued to talk a childish Japanese to his parents at home, as an adult Ishiguro cannot write the language or speak it formally and in the event he only returned to the country for the first time nearly thirty years later, in 1989, by then a celebrated Booker Prize winner.
 
After leaving school, Ishiguro, long-haired and hippyish, went hitchhiking around America for three months, wanting at this time to become a singer-songwriter, his idols being Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. From 1974 to 1978, he studied English and Philosophy at the University of Kent in Canterbury, with a break year in which he both began to write fiction and volunteered as a community worker on a Glasgow housing estate.
 
In 1979, he was employed by the Cyrenians homelessness charity in London and met his future wife, Lorna Anne MacDougall, a Glaswegian, who also worked there. They married in 1986 and they have a daughter, Naomi, born in 1992, now a published writer herself.
 
In 1979–1980, Ishiguro attended the innovatory creative writing programme at the University of East Anglia, led by Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter, and completed several short stories there, much under the influence of Ian McEwan at the time, he says, until he suddenly became interested in writing about his Japanese background. In 1981, three stories appeared in an anthology, Introductions 7, published by Faber, the house he remains with to this day.
 
For another year, he continued to work with the homeless, until in 1982, he published his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, and turned full-time writer. This debut was immediately acclaimed; it won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize of the Royal Society of Literature and was translated into many languages. Ishiguro was also selected as the youngest at twenty-eight of the twenty ‘Best of Young British Novelists’ in an influential initiative by Granta magazine, although he was not actually at this time a British citizen. He became so shortly afterwards.
 
A Pale View of Hills is set in contemporary Britain but it is narrated by a Japanese woman, married to an Englishman, whose daughter by her first marriage has committed suicide. She remembers her life in immediately post-war Nagasaki in a way that at first seems aimless, but she begins to reveal herself through the stories she tells of others. Ishiguro has been critical of his debut, saying it is ‘a bit murky and unnecessarily baffling’ and that, being a first novel, it’s not quite confident enough in the radical things it does. But it does establish his great subject of the way people operate when trying to face themselves and the past.
 
The far more accomplished An Artist of the Floating World followed in 1986, confirming Ishiguro’s high reputation, winning the Whitbread Book of the Year Prize and being shortlisted for the Booker. It is set in Nagasaki in 1948–50 and is the testament of an elderly painting master, Masuji Ono, who turned in the Thirties from painting scenes of the transitory joys of the ‘floating world’ (the pleasure districts) to producing work of militaristic propaganda, in the hope of committing himself to more permanent values. Now he comes to understand that his career was mistaken and his role anyway unimportant.
 
At this time, these Japanese settings appeared essential to Ishiguro’s writing but the publication of his third novel, The Remains of the Day, which took his success to new heights – winning the Booker Prize in 1989 and being made quite rapidly into an acclaimed film – revealed otherwise. The Remains of the Day is in its way a faultlessly achieved novel. Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, has repeatedly cited it as his favourite fiction of all time, saying in 1998: ‘Before reading it, I didn’t think a perfect novel was possible.’ Ishiguro’s work, with its recurrent theme of regret, has even been said to underlie Bezos’s famous ‘regret minimization framework’ philosophy of always taking risks, rather than playing it safe.
 
It’s the 1950s. Stevens, a proud butler, now serving an American master, recollects his years of devoted service to his former employer, Lord Darlington, in the years leading up to the Second World War. Stevens’s reverence for his former lord appears undimmed by the fact that Darlington was an active Nazi collaborator, and that his dedication to service has cost him the one great chance of personal fulfilment he was offered and missed, in the form of a relationship with the capable housekeeper Miss Kenton. Travelling through the West Country to meet her again for the first time in twenty years, Stevens, still believing in the elusive concept of ‘dignity’, tries to face up to what remains of his life. So funny, so sad, The Remains of the Day is ‘both beautiful and cruel’, as Salman Rushdie observed – and its mythical Englishness helped make it an international as well as a domestic bestseller.
 
Yet, as Ishiguro has often stated, the essence of fiction doesn’t lie in the setting for him. ‘By the time I started The Remains of the Day, I realized that the essence of what I wanted to write was moveable.’ When a Paris Review interviewer congratulated him on having such ‘chameleon-like ability’, he replied: ‘I don’t think it is that chameleon-like. What I’m saying is I’ve written the same book three times. I just somehow got away with it.’
 
In interview, Ishiguro has always had this enchanting candour: he’s clear, direct and truthful, never pretentious. He is quoted extensively in this introduction because he is so illuminating and consistent in explaining his work. You can take what he says straight. And he has quite often said this. Indeed he has also defended repetition in general, commenting: ‘Literary novelists are slightly defensive about being repetitive. I think it is perfectly justified: you keep doing it until it comes closer and closer to what you want to say.’
 
But, having thus copied his own self in this way, he moved on decisively, partly because he himself had changed as he entered middle age, he says. These first three books had been about people looking back, trying to evaluate their lives, dignifying their failures, ordering the past as best they were able. But as he got older, he started to feel greater chaos and uncertainty and wanted to write from the viewpoint of someone in the midst of the mess, ‘being pulled in different directions at once, and not realizing why’.
 
The Unconsoled, published in 1995, is as long as the three previous books put together and has the logic of dreams, in which everything – time, place, identity – keeps changing without explanation. Ryder, a musician, arrives to give a redemptive concert somewhere in central Europe but everything shifts around him bewilderingly. ‘The book is supposed to be a metaphor for the way most of us have lives we blunder through, pretending we know where we’re going but not really knowing where we’re going’, Ishiguro has offered. By far his most experimental novel, The Unconsoled baffl d some reviewers – James Wood famously pronounced that it ‘invented its own category of badness’, and on BBC2’s arts show Late Review Tony Parsons pleasantly suggested ritual suicide was the only viable career option left for its author – but to many readers it has increasingly come to seem nothing less than a sui generis masterpiece.
 
Since 1990, even before starting The Unconsoled, Ishiguro had been working on a project called ‘The Students’ Novel’, about ‘these strange young people living in the countryside, calling themselves students where there’s no university’. There was some kind of strange fate hanging over them, he recalled, that was related to nuclear weapons. ‘I thought that they were going to come across nuclear weapons that were being moved around at night in huge lorries and be doomed in some way’, resulting in a life span of thirty, rather than eighty, years, he told the Paris Review. He could not finish these stories, however. He took the project up again between The Unconsoled and his fifth novel, When We Were Orphans, published in 2000, but then again abandoned it. Only around 2001 did the critical idea of dropping the nuclear element and turning instead to cloning come to him. ‘Around that time, in 2001, there was a lot of stuff about cloning, about stem-cell research, about Dolly the sheep. It was very much in the air’, Ishiguro says. One morning he heard a debate about biotechnology on the radio and seized upon the concept. ‘I could see a metaphor here. I was looking for a situation to talk about the whole ageing process, but in such an odd way that we’d have to look at it all in a new way.’ Actually, he added, the novel is hardly about the ageing process and certainly not about old age but rather a way of explaining certain aspects of ‘what happens to you as you leave childhood, face up to adulthood, and then face up to your own mortality’.
 
And so Never Let Me Go came into being: the story of three friends who grow up in an enclosed environment, a kind of boarding school, only gradually coming to understand that, parentless and unable to have children themselves, they are not considered to be fully human like the people outside, destined for only very brief and restricted lives as adults, before they are required to fulfil the purpose for which they were created, donating their organs, until they die, or, as they call it, they ‘complete’. Our realization of the truth about their situation is gradual. There is no startling reveal, no single shocking disclosure of where we are headed. Rather, just as the children themselves only slowly come to understand their fate, so do we as readers only piece together the implications gradually, as we do in life. In fact, the word ‘clone’ appears for the first time only in Chapter 14, in Ruth’s tirade about the students being modelled on ‘trash’, long after the term will have occurred to the mind of every reader.
 
Ostensibly a work of science fiction, Never Let Me Go is really nothing of the kind. Ishiguro says he’s perfectly open to people reading it as a chilling warning about biotechnology but feels they’ve missed the inner heart of the book if they take it that way. He has certainly given readers nothing to foster such a misreading. For the book is set in the past, not the future: ‘England, late 1990s’ it is specified before the novel begins.
 
The narrator, Kathy H, is thirty-one as the book opens, and has been a ‘carer’ for nearly twelve years. She looks back to her time at a school she remains very proud to have attended, Hailsham, recalling first when she and her friends were children there, and then when they were teenagers, so locating it in the early and later Seventies, perhaps. Then in Part Two, she tells us about their lives afterwards, in ‘the Cottages’ as young adults, perhaps in the early Eighties. But such dating is never precise and there are few contemporary references. There is almost no allusion to technology, beyond humdrum cars, Rovers and Volvos, and old-fashioned cassette tapes and Walkmans.
 
Almost nothing about the actual biological status of the clones is specified either – neither how they were created, nor how they can make their ‘donations’ and continue for a while to live. Nor are we given any information about changes in society at large.
 
Quite remarkably, there are simply no futuristic, alternative world or science-fiction components to the story. For what this book is about is ordinary, normal and everyday, the knowledge that we are mortal, that our time is limited, death inescapable. And everything about the way in which it is written, from that absence of technology to the conversational, unremarkable language in which Kathy tells us her story, is calculated to bring it home to us that these are our own lives we are contemplating.
 
In his invariably clear and modest way, Ishiguro describes this radical narrative thus: ‘The strategy here is that we’re looking at a very strange world, at a very strange group of people, and gradually, I wanted people to feel they’re not looking at such a strange world, that this is everybody’s story.’
 
As in all Ishiguro’s novels, he never explicitly states the conditions of life he is depicting but asks readers to realize what they are for themselves, to gather much not just from what is said but from what is not said as well. This internalizes the world of the novel for the reader in quite a different way from a more overt telling. His great admirer Hanya Yanagihara has spoken of his ‘remarkable way of using the white space – a lot of writers feel they have to say something all at once on the page, they’re maximalists and he’s not. He’s relying on the reader to understand what is happening off the page.’ Ishiguro himself compares his ellipticality to that found in songs that contain many more hidden things than the average prose story. ‘You’re going to try to structure the unsaid things as finely and narrowly as you structure the said things. So you often leave out explicit meanings. You deliberately create spaces in the songs for the person listening to inhabit’, he told Alan Yentob in a 2021 Imagine TV profi le. So it becomes your own story – rather as Kathy makes her own interpretation of the song ‘Never Let Me Go’.
 
It is telling that the very title, so poignant in itself, should bethat of an imaginary song – a song asking for the impossible, like Bob Dylan’s great invocation of what we may not be, ‘Forever Young’. In that TV programme, Ishiguro explained: ‘Never let me go is an impossible request. You can say, hold on to me for a long time, that’s reasonable. But never let me go – you know that what is being asked for, and asked for with great passion and need, is actually ultimately impossible to fulfi l, so it’s that never that really appealed to me. It’s that huge human need just for a moment to deny the reality that we will all be parted.’
. . . .
© Andrew Testa
KAZUO ISHIGURO was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954 and moved to Britain at the age of five. His eight previous works of fiction have earned him many honors around the world, including the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Booker Prize. His work has been translated into over fifty languages, and The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, both made into acclaimed films, have each sold more than 2 million copies. He was given a knighthood in 2018 for Services to Literature. He also holds the decorations of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star from Japan. View titles by Kazuo Ishiguro

About

From the Nobel laureate and author of Klara and the Sun, a beautiful hardcover edition of one of his most acclaimed novels: a deeply moving and stunningly original love story with a startling twist

As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.

Everyman's Library pursues the highest production standards, printing on acid-free cream-colored paper, with full-cloth cases with two-color foil stamping, decorative endpapers, silk ribbon markers, European-style half-round spines, and a full-color illustrated jacket. Contemporary Classics include an introduction, a select bibliography, and a chronology of the author's life and times.

Excerpt

from the Introduction by David Sexton

‘Derivative writers seem versatile because they imitate many others, past and present. Artistic originality has only its own self to copy’ (Nabokov).
 
Kazuo Ishiguro is the great original among contemporary British novelists.
 
Born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954, he moved with his parents and his sister to Guildford in Surrey in 1960, aged five, his father, Shizuo, a research oceanographer, having taken a job with the British government. Both his father and his mother Shizuko came from samurai families and they left behind a traditional, large samurai family house in Nagasaki.
 
For many years Kazuo expected this move to Britain to be temporary but he ended up staying, going to the local primary school in Guildford for six years, and then to Woking County Grammar School for the next seven, until 1973. Although he continued to talk a childish Japanese to his parents at home, as an adult Ishiguro cannot write the language or speak it formally and in the event he only returned to the country for the first time nearly thirty years later, in 1989, by then a celebrated Booker Prize winner.
 
After leaving school, Ishiguro, long-haired and hippyish, went hitchhiking around America for three months, wanting at this time to become a singer-songwriter, his idols being Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. From 1974 to 1978, he studied English and Philosophy at the University of Kent in Canterbury, with a break year in which he both began to write fiction and volunteered as a community worker on a Glasgow housing estate.
 
In 1979, he was employed by the Cyrenians homelessness charity in London and met his future wife, Lorna Anne MacDougall, a Glaswegian, who also worked there. They married in 1986 and they have a daughter, Naomi, born in 1992, now a published writer herself.
 
In 1979–1980, Ishiguro attended the innovatory creative writing programme at the University of East Anglia, led by Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter, and completed several short stories there, much under the influence of Ian McEwan at the time, he says, until he suddenly became interested in writing about his Japanese background. In 1981, three stories appeared in an anthology, Introductions 7, published by Faber, the house he remains with to this day.
 
For another year, he continued to work with the homeless, until in 1982, he published his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, and turned full-time writer. This debut was immediately acclaimed; it won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize of the Royal Society of Literature and was translated into many languages. Ishiguro was also selected as the youngest at twenty-eight of the twenty ‘Best of Young British Novelists’ in an influential initiative by Granta magazine, although he was not actually at this time a British citizen. He became so shortly afterwards.
 
A Pale View of Hills is set in contemporary Britain but it is narrated by a Japanese woman, married to an Englishman, whose daughter by her first marriage has committed suicide. She remembers her life in immediately post-war Nagasaki in a way that at first seems aimless, but she begins to reveal herself through the stories she tells of others. Ishiguro has been critical of his debut, saying it is ‘a bit murky and unnecessarily baffling’ and that, being a first novel, it’s not quite confident enough in the radical things it does. But it does establish his great subject of the way people operate when trying to face themselves and the past.
 
The far more accomplished An Artist of the Floating World followed in 1986, confirming Ishiguro’s high reputation, winning the Whitbread Book of the Year Prize and being shortlisted for the Booker. It is set in Nagasaki in 1948–50 and is the testament of an elderly painting master, Masuji Ono, who turned in the Thirties from painting scenes of the transitory joys of the ‘floating world’ (the pleasure districts) to producing work of militaristic propaganda, in the hope of committing himself to more permanent values. Now he comes to understand that his career was mistaken and his role anyway unimportant.
 
At this time, these Japanese settings appeared essential to Ishiguro’s writing but the publication of his third novel, The Remains of the Day, which took his success to new heights – winning the Booker Prize in 1989 and being made quite rapidly into an acclaimed film – revealed otherwise. The Remains of the Day is in its way a faultlessly achieved novel. Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, has repeatedly cited it as his favourite fiction of all time, saying in 1998: ‘Before reading it, I didn’t think a perfect novel was possible.’ Ishiguro’s work, with its recurrent theme of regret, has even been said to underlie Bezos’s famous ‘regret minimization framework’ philosophy of always taking risks, rather than playing it safe.
 
It’s the 1950s. Stevens, a proud butler, now serving an American master, recollects his years of devoted service to his former employer, Lord Darlington, in the years leading up to the Second World War. Stevens’s reverence for his former lord appears undimmed by the fact that Darlington was an active Nazi collaborator, and that his dedication to service has cost him the one great chance of personal fulfilment he was offered and missed, in the form of a relationship with the capable housekeeper Miss Kenton. Travelling through the West Country to meet her again for the first time in twenty years, Stevens, still believing in the elusive concept of ‘dignity’, tries to face up to what remains of his life. So funny, so sad, The Remains of the Day is ‘both beautiful and cruel’, as Salman Rushdie observed – and its mythical Englishness helped make it an international as well as a domestic bestseller.
 
Yet, as Ishiguro has often stated, the essence of fiction doesn’t lie in the setting for him. ‘By the time I started The Remains of the Day, I realized that the essence of what I wanted to write was moveable.’ When a Paris Review interviewer congratulated him on having such ‘chameleon-like ability’, he replied: ‘I don’t think it is that chameleon-like. What I’m saying is I’ve written the same book three times. I just somehow got away with it.’
 
In interview, Ishiguro has always had this enchanting candour: he’s clear, direct and truthful, never pretentious. He is quoted extensively in this introduction because he is so illuminating and consistent in explaining his work. You can take what he says straight. And he has quite often said this. Indeed he has also defended repetition in general, commenting: ‘Literary novelists are slightly defensive about being repetitive. I think it is perfectly justified: you keep doing it until it comes closer and closer to what you want to say.’
 
But, having thus copied his own self in this way, he moved on decisively, partly because he himself had changed as he entered middle age, he says. These first three books had been about people looking back, trying to evaluate their lives, dignifying their failures, ordering the past as best they were able. But as he got older, he started to feel greater chaos and uncertainty and wanted to write from the viewpoint of someone in the midst of the mess, ‘being pulled in different directions at once, and not realizing why’.
 
The Unconsoled, published in 1995, is as long as the three previous books put together and has the logic of dreams, in which everything – time, place, identity – keeps changing without explanation. Ryder, a musician, arrives to give a redemptive concert somewhere in central Europe but everything shifts around him bewilderingly. ‘The book is supposed to be a metaphor for the way most of us have lives we blunder through, pretending we know where we’re going but not really knowing where we’re going’, Ishiguro has offered. By far his most experimental novel, The Unconsoled baffl d some reviewers – James Wood famously pronounced that it ‘invented its own category of badness’, and on BBC2’s arts show Late Review Tony Parsons pleasantly suggested ritual suicide was the only viable career option left for its author – but to many readers it has increasingly come to seem nothing less than a sui generis masterpiece.
 
Since 1990, even before starting The Unconsoled, Ishiguro had been working on a project called ‘The Students’ Novel’, about ‘these strange young people living in the countryside, calling themselves students where there’s no university’. There was some kind of strange fate hanging over them, he recalled, that was related to nuclear weapons. ‘I thought that they were going to come across nuclear weapons that were being moved around at night in huge lorries and be doomed in some way’, resulting in a life span of thirty, rather than eighty, years, he told the Paris Review. He could not finish these stories, however. He took the project up again between The Unconsoled and his fifth novel, When We Were Orphans, published in 2000, but then again abandoned it. Only around 2001 did the critical idea of dropping the nuclear element and turning instead to cloning come to him. ‘Around that time, in 2001, there was a lot of stuff about cloning, about stem-cell research, about Dolly the sheep. It was very much in the air’, Ishiguro says. One morning he heard a debate about biotechnology on the radio and seized upon the concept. ‘I could see a metaphor here. I was looking for a situation to talk about the whole ageing process, but in such an odd way that we’d have to look at it all in a new way.’ Actually, he added, the novel is hardly about the ageing process and certainly not about old age but rather a way of explaining certain aspects of ‘what happens to you as you leave childhood, face up to adulthood, and then face up to your own mortality’.
 
And so Never Let Me Go came into being: the story of three friends who grow up in an enclosed environment, a kind of boarding school, only gradually coming to understand that, parentless and unable to have children themselves, they are not considered to be fully human like the people outside, destined for only very brief and restricted lives as adults, before they are required to fulfil the purpose for which they were created, donating their organs, until they die, or, as they call it, they ‘complete’. Our realization of the truth about their situation is gradual. There is no startling reveal, no single shocking disclosure of where we are headed. Rather, just as the children themselves only slowly come to understand their fate, so do we as readers only piece together the implications gradually, as we do in life. In fact, the word ‘clone’ appears for the first time only in Chapter 14, in Ruth’s tirade about the students being modelled on ‘trash’, long after the term will have occurred to the mind of every reader.
 
Ostensibly a work of science fiction, Never Let Me Go is really nothing of the kind. Ishiguro says he’s perfectly open to people reading it as a chilling warning about biotechnology but feels they’ve missed the inner heart of the book if they take it that way. He has certainly given readers nothing to foster such a misreading. For the book is set in the past, not the future: ‘England, late 1990s’ it is specified before the novel begins.
 
The narrator, Kathy H, is thirty-one as the book opens, and has been a ‘carer’ for nearly twelve years. She looks back to her time at a school she remains very proud to have attended, Hailsham, recalling first when she and her friends were children there, and then when they were teenagers, so locating it in the early and later Seventies, perhaps. Then in Part Two, she tells us about their lives afterwards, in ‘the Cottages’ as young adults, perhaps in the early Eighties. But such dating is never precise and there are few contemporary references. There is almost no allusion to technology, beyond humdrum cars, Rovers and Volvos, and old-fashioned cassette tapes and Walkmans.
 
Almost nothing about the actual biological status of the clones is specified either – neither how they were created, nor how they can make their ‘donations’ and continue for a while to live. Nor are we given any information about changes in society at large.
 
Quite remarkably, there are simply no futuristic, alternative world or science-fiction components to the story. For what this book is about is ordinary, normal and everyday, the knowledge that we are mortal, that our time is limited, death inescapable. And everything about the way in which it is written, from that absence of technology to the conversational, unremarkable language in which Kathy tells us her story, is calculated to bring it home to us that these are our own lives we are contemplating.
 
In his invariably clear and modest way, Ishiguro describes this radical narrative thus: ‘The strategy here is that we’re looking at a very strange world, at a very strange group of people, and gradually, I wanted people to feel they’re not looking at such a strange world, that this is everybody’s story.’
 
As in all Ishiguro’s novels, he never explicitly states the conditions of life he is depicting but asks readers to realize what they are for themselves, to gather much not just from what is said but from what is not said as well. This internalizes the world of the novel for the reader in quite a different way from a more overt telling. His great admirer Hanya Yanagihara has spoken of his ‘remarkable way of using the white space – a lot of writers feel they have to say something all at once on the page, they’re maximalists and he’s not. He’s relying on the reader to understand what is happening off the page.’ Ishiguro himself compares his ellipticality to that found in songs that contain many more hidden things than the average prose story. ‘You’re going to try to structure the unsaid things as finely and narrowly as you structure the said things. So you often leave out explicit meanings. You deliberately create spaces in the songs for the person listening to inhabit’, he told Alan Yentob in a 2021 Imagine TV profi le. So it becomes your own story – rather as Kathy makes her own interpretation of the song ‘Never Let Me Go’.
 
It is telling that the very title, so poignant in itself, should bethat of an imaginary song – a song asking for the impossible, like Bob Dylan’s great invocation of what we may not be, ‘Forever Young’. In that TV programme, Ishiguro explained: ‘Never let me go is an impossible request. You can say, hold on to me for a long time, that’s reasonable. But never let me go – you know that what is being asked for, and asked for with great passion and need, is actually ultimately impossible to fulfi l, so it’s that never that really appealed to me. It’s that huge human need just for a moment to deny the reality that we will all be parted.’
. . . .

Author

© Andrew Testa
KAZUO ISHIGURO was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954 and moved to Britain at the age of five. His eight previous works of fiction have earned him many honors around the world, including the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Booker Prize. His work has been translated into over fifty languages, and The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, both made into acclaimed films, have each sold more than 2 million copies. He was given a knighthood in 2018 for Services to Literature. He also holds the decorations of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star from Japan. View titles by Kazuo Ishiguro

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