Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go"

Some first-person novels have narrators with enriched vocabularies, but Kazuo Ishiguro has kept the narrator of Never Let Me Go, Kathy H, away from literary language. From the first page, she is unsuspecting in her ready use of cliché. "I know for a fact"; "it means a lot to me"; "a complete waste of space". She begins sentences with "actually" and "anyway". She does not exactly have an impoverished lexicon: she readily uses words like "languorous", "ambivalent" and "trammelled". At one point she whiles away the time with Daniel Deronda. Yet her narrative voice feels deprived of resources.
--John Mullan, professor of English at University College London, writing in The Guardian
Professor Mullan's short essay is well worth your time and attention--but don't read it if you haven't already read Never Let Me Go.

If you have read the novel--and I do highly recommend it--click here for the Mullan essay.

If you haven't yet read the novel, it spoils nothing (and should help whet your appetite) to share with you Mullan's insightful bottom line about Ishiguro's main characters: "The cleverest, saddest aspect of the novel is the limit upon their imaginings." You'll know what the professor means when you finish the novel.

Listen to Kazuo Ishiguro read the opening passage from Never Let Me Go.

--Marshal Zeringue