Chris

The Idle Book Club 13: Never Let Me Go

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The Idle Book Club 13:

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Never Let Me Go

Something sinister and tragic is at play in an English countryside boarding school, and we're going to spoil it all. Join Chris and Sarah for their discussion of Kazuo Ishiguro's 2005 novel Never Let Me Go. This one had a great forum thread too, so be sure to stop by!

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I read this book awhile ago so my memory on it might not be perfect, but I remember liking it pretty well.  I think I would enjoy it more today as the questions from the book resonate more and more with the things I think about in my life today.  I am spoiler tagging the rest even though I think nothing I say would ruin anyone's experience with the book, I'd rather not presume.

 

I am an environmental geographer and have been studying environmental justice lately and it keeps making me think that the questions in this book are not very different from those we make in our environment everyday.  In order to provide the comfort of our modern food system, for example, we tolerate levels of exposure to fumigants and pesticides that we know cause cancer and other negative health outcomes.  Epigenetics are telling us that these decisions may not just effect those workers but may impact their descendants for generations through changes to the methylation process (the process which activates genes).  So, when I reflect on the deeply human story of those people destined to die for someone else, I can't help but think of the parallels to our modern society.

 

I don't want to get too far into the academic weeds, but it's a story that perfectly tragically captures what Foucault's concept of "biopower."  For Foucault, power is not only expressed by power over whether one lives or dies (and this is still a theme of the book), but also of the power to define life itself.  Much of the book focuses (from what I remember) on the great lengths through which the bodies of the character are controlled through formal and informal authorities.  I like how well the book captures biopower as the ability "to make live and let die," but also looks at the mechanisms of that power in a very personal way.  I think it's a novel that has quite a bit to teach us and in some ways holds up and uncomfortable mirror to the social structures of our own society.

 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book, especially since it will be much fresher for you two.

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Huh. I read his Unconsoled and couldn't make head nor tails of it, but was intrigued. Definitely looking forward to this.

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I just bought a copy of the film adaptation. A copy of Fates and Furies never freed up at my library (77 holds in front of me!) but maybe I'll have better luck grabbing a copy of this. It'll be interesting to compare the film to the book, since I've never experienced either.

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I didn't even realize they had made a film adaptation of it. I wonder if it is any good. It seems perfectly adaptable in someways, but it'd require some pretty good acting to make up for all the characterization in the book that happens through mundane daily life.

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It was really well received upon release. It was directed by Mark Romanek, who's best known for his music video work (including the video for NIN's Closer), so I imagine it at least looks beautiful.

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I've had this on my to-read list for a long time so I'm glad to have a reason to start it.

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I've seen the film but I watched it on a plane about 5 years ago so I have almost no memory of it.

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I've had this on my to-read list for a long time so I'm glad to have a reason to start it.

 

Same, and I appreciate that the lengths of the books chosen so far have been pretty manageable so I can get through this and a couple of other books each month.

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I vaguely recall seeing a portion of the film awhile ago, so starting this I had a very awkward "I think I know where this is going" feeling through the first chapters. Fortunately it became a bit more enjoyable once I got into less familiar territory.

 

Reminded me though that I just cannot read books after seeing their film adaptations. I have no problem going the other way around, but after watching a film it feels like it's been spoiled when it comes to reading the book.

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I saw the movie, thought it mostly sucked. Was really plodding and boring. The relationships didn't feel believable either. I guess it's depressing and stark to support the story, but I didn't find it enjoyable on any level besides maybe visuals, but Mark Romanek isn't really my thing.

 

Would be interested to listen to this cast though. Wonder how much the movie is similar to the book. The extra features made it seem like a very faithful adaptation as the author is featured way more than Mark Romanek or Alex Garland.

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Finished this morning, and while I'm still processing everything, there was something that nagged at me throughout:

I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that none of the donors ever seems to consider escape. I assumed it would have been a major theme - life finds a way and all that. Even after Kath and Tommy are told that there are no deferrals, I suspected at least a suggestion of alternative possibilities (from Tommy), but there is a bit of frustration followed by resignation.

Was this intentional? I found it difficult to empathise with Kath when she showed almost no interest in self-preservation. And it felt a bit inconsistent with other moments throughout the book which seem intended to emphasise the humanity of the donors.

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Read this book. In general I enjoyed it a lot, so I'll put my negative thoughts first and thus we'll end on a more positive note.

Stuff I didn't enjoy so much:

The page-turner nature of the book really damaged it, I think. It removed a lot of the true to life nature of it for me because the entire book is a series of memories and nobody remembers their life as a series of cliffhangers carefully designed to hook the reader into reading the next page. It's just ridiculous. Recalling a series of memories can be a narrative or it can be scattershot or it can be meandering but it can't be The Da Vinci Code, if you ask me. So I was not a fan of that aspect at all.

I think the book would have really benefitted from some sort of framing story taking place in the present. That sort of structure could have been a more naturally way to make it a page turner, because instead of relying on the sequence of memories to set up each cliffhanger, the present could have been responsible for that. It also would have been a nice counterpoint to heighten the nostalgia, if we could see what the narrator is up to in the present (presumably sitting around missing a kidney or whatever).

The very simple tone the book was written in jarred me a bit. It's a good tone for recounting childhood experiences, because it sort of matches the inner voice of a child, I think, but it didn't work for me for two reasons. The first is that a good chunk of the book is not about childhood but rather young adulthood, at which point the voice should probably not have been so straightforward, especially because ostensibly all of these memories are from the point of view of an adult looking back. The second issue is that apparently the narrator read a shitton of Victorian novels or whatever, so it's pretty inexcusable to me that her inner narrative reads like Hemingway had a stroke or whatever. That's some serious dissonance.

So much for things that didn't grab me. Now on to what I enjoyed:

Gosh, I'm sure everyone thinks this, but boy howdy is this not an evocative, true to life book. It's jawdropping how perfectly it captures things about childhood or about how people act in certain relationships and so on. So many times throughout the book I was struck by how well it described what was going on in terms that seemed true to life. Picking one example not at random but for another reason that will become clear in a sec, on page 106 of my paperback coppy, Tommy tries to convince the narrator that he's happy and so he says he's happy and smiles and laughs. She recalls:

Then when I said to him: "Tommy, I can tell. You haven't been too happy lately," he said: "What do you mean? I'm perfectly happy. I really am." And he did a big beam, followed by this hearty laugh. That was what did it. Years later, when I saw a shadow of it every now and then, I'd just smile. But back then, it really used to get to me. If Tommy happened to say to you: "I'm really upset about it," he'd have to put on a long, downcast face, then and there, to back up his words. I don't mean he did this ironically. He actually thought he'd be more convincing. So now, to prove he was happy, here he was, trying to sparkle with bonhomie. As I say, there would come a time when I'd think this was sweet; but that summer all I could see was that it advertised what a child he still was, and how easily you could take advantage of him. I didn't know much then about the world that awaited us beyond Hailsham, but I'd guessed we'd need all our wits about us, and when Tommy did anything like this, I felt something close to panic.

Look at all the stuff going on here. There's the super true to life description of a thing people do - I do exactly what Tommy does! (That's one reason this passage struck me.) There's the pitch perfect way of capturing what people think about this, and also enough hints to show that the narrator herself actually isn't the final arbiter of truth here (she's wrong, I think, about Tommy doing this because he thinks it's more convincing, and she's wrong that it makes him easier to take advantage of). And in the context of what is going on in this section it's a perfect way of summing up their relationship and the situation it's in and how it's changing.

I realy liked the sci-fi part of the story, both on a basic level and on a more metaphorical level.

On the basic level, I saw a lot of parallels between the clones and everyone else in this book, on the one hand, and non-human animals and humans in real life, on the other hand. There's the use to which the clones are put - medical experiments, just like non-human animals, and organ harvesting, just like non-human animals (although we typically eat, rather than transplant, the latter sort of organs). There's the sense that once we have some advantages, we can't go back: the society in the book won't stop harvesting clone organs because they've accepted that certain diseases can be cured, and our society in real life won't stop eating non-human animals because we've accepted that certain animals are food, this despite the fact that there's nothing necessary about harvesting clone organs or killing and eating non-human animals. There's the urge to think of the sources, the clones and the non-human animals, as without "souls" or some other special "something" which explains why it's okay to treat them like shit, even though someone who thought things through with a clear head would realize that there's nothing special about us as opposed to clones or non-human animals that renders it wrong to kill us but totally fine to kill a clone or a non-human animal. There are the people fighting for the rights of the disenfranchised but at the same time they're unable to fully see the "other" as equals - they see their whole project as a sort of charity for the worse off rather than a fight for equality.

On the metaphorical level, I think the way the clones deal with their eventual death via organ harvesting is a great metaphor how we deal with our eventual deaths. For a while they're aware of it but not aware of it, innocent because they're purposefully shielded from it and because it's the sort of thing they themselves don't want to deal with. As they grow up, they're no longer shielded from it, but they still do their best to ignore it, and even once they are straight up dealing with it and getting their organs harvested they still haven't fully engaged the topic. They still use euphemisms like "completed" to discuss what's going on, just like even in the face of our own obvious mortality we often have to talk around it ("passed away," "passed on") and we often don't want to look it straight in its face even as we are dying. The sense of inevitability is strong in the book just as it is in real life: it's not really a live project ot escape death.

So, cdkr, that means I have two responses to your point:

I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that none of the donors ever seems to consider escape. I assumed it would have been a major theme - life finds a way and all that. Even after Kath and Tommy are told that there are no deferrals, I suspected at least a suggestion of alternative possibilities (from Tommy), but there is a bit of frustration followed by resignation.

Starting with my second point, the donors don't look for an escape because for them there isn't an escape. That is not the world they've been brought up in. They've been brought up in a world where clones get their organs harvested and die, just like we've been brought up in a world where humans are born, live for some time, and die. You don't go around that. You don't question the rules of the game. That's the human condition - the ancient Greeks thought of humans as the "thanatoi," the ones who die, as opposed to the immortal gods, the "athanatoi." To the Greeks, to be human is to die, and to die is to be human. Ditto for the clones in this book. To be a clone is to get your organs harvested until you die. That's the world.

On a more practical level, people can be brought to see all sorts of things as normal to the point where they don't resist. People sometimes ask why prisoners in concetration camps in the Holocaust didn't fight back more often or why when there's a mass shooting people just let themselves be lined up and executed rather than fighting back. The answer is that human psychology is complex but honestly we can put up with a lot of obviously wrong shit, especially if we're told all our lives that it isn't wrong. Again, look at how we treat non-human animals. It's obvious that non-human animal cruelty is wrong, and yet we engage in it on a vast scale, all day every day, to eat hamburgers. How is that any better than growing cloned humans for their organs? It isn't, but people just go along with it, because all throughout their lives it hasn't even occurred to them to quesiton the whole arrangement. Their whole lives, the clones have been brought up to see their lives as normal, and indeed they've been complicit in seeing things these ways, because as the book so superbly points out, kids are experts at enforcing implicit rules via mob mentality. Imagine how much of your self-conception you'd have to ditch, how much of your formative years you'd have to reject, if you were a clone who came to fight back against the organ donation system.

Finally, my copy of the book amusingly had, at the end, "questions and discussino topics" which are "intended to enhance your group's reading of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go." I will reproduce them here for everyone's edification:

1. Why is it important for Kathy to seek out donors who are "from the past," "people from Hailsham"? She learns from a donor who'd grown up at an awful place in Dorset that she and her friends at Hailsham had been really "lucky". How does the irony of this designation grow as the novel goes on? What does Hailsham represent for Kathy, and why does she say at the end that Hailsham is "something no one can take away"?

2. Kathy's narration is the key to the novel's disquieting effect. First person narration establishes a kind of intimacy between narrator and reader. What is it like having direct access to Kathy's mind and feelings? How would the novel be different if narrated from Tommy's point of view, or Ruth's, or Miss Emily's?

3. What are some of Ruth's most striking character traits? How might her social behavior, at Hailsham and later at the Cottages, be explained? Why does she seek her "possible" so earnestly?

4. One of the most notable aspects of life at Hailsham is the power of the group. Students watch each other carefully and try on different poses, attitudes, and ways of speaking. Is this behavior typical of most adolescents, or is there something different about the way the students at Hailsham seek to conform?

5. How do Madame and Miss Emily react to Kathy and Tommy when they come to request a deferral? Defending her work at Hailsham, Miss Emily says, "Look at you both now! You've had good lives, you're educated and cultured". What is revealed in this extended conversation, and how do these revelations affect your experience of the story?

6. After their visit to Miss Emily and Madame, Kathy tells Tommy that his fits of rage might be explained by the fact that "at some level you always knew". Does this imply that Kathy didn't? Does it imply that Tommy is more perceptive than Kathy?

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Finished this morning, and while I'm still processing everything, there was something that nagged at me throughout:

I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that none of the donors ever seems to consider escape. I assumed it would have been a major theme - life finds a way and all that. Even after Kath and Tommy are told that there are no deferrals, I suspected at least a suggestion of alternative possibilities (from Tommy), but there is a bit of frustration followed by resignation.

Was this intentional? I found it difficult to empathise with Kath when she showed almost no interest in self-preservation. And it felt a bit inconsistent with other moments throughout the book which seem intended to emphasise the humanity of the donors.

 

I think that it is intentional.  Based on my reading of the theme of the book, it's doing a lot to show how power is exerted over the development of a person's identity through mundane repetition and control over their life patterns.  I remember it being a book focused on the power of the banal.  I think it follows from that theme that there is no grand Hunger-Games-like resistance.  To extend the question to reality, one might also ask why California farm workers "allow" themselves to be exposed to fumigants and pesticides despite our knowledge of the health implications for them and their children.  Or, why do people live in Hunter's Point San Fransisco when it is a nuclear waste site?  Etc...   I think that the purpose of the book is to show how people are made to die for the comfort of others and how that is done through power that is exerted with banal conditioning and the establishment of social rules.  I think it is MUCH harder to get past one's own social milieu than you think.  There are so many social pressures on the characters in this book that it makes their compliance seem normal and I think that is the point.  That's just my reading, though.

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I actually used Never Let Me Go as a novel examined in my honours thesis. The main concept of the thesis as a whole was exploring was use of "popular" genre conventions in a literary context (other novels explored were The Road and The Handmaid's Tale). I contrasted it with The Island which was the pop action version of a similar story framed as an action chase film. Never Let Me Go instead shows the characters becoming depressingly accepting of their reality. I'll just copy and paste a paragraph from another concept I found interesting which I'll just leave here:

 

"There is a strong parallel between the students of the Hailsham School and the stereotypical image of a bohemian art student. Kathy and her friends are generally well read and a number of them are talented artists. They often discuss literature and are shown to be well educated in such areas. In this, it feels as if Ishiguro is using this idea metaphorically to suggest that unfortunately, artistic pursuits must give way to reality. The characters in the novel must eventually give in to the real world. Any artistic pursuits they had were seemingly a waste of time."

 

Pretty depressing conclusion to come to really.

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Just finished this.

I found this to be an extremely powerful book. At its core I think it is about the unfairness of life, and people's acceptance thereof, for whatever reason. You can then make parallels from this to various situations in the world as it is, for example TychoC's bio-industry story (which rings true to me though I doubt it's what the author intended). When I finished the book I was more angry than sad (though I was plenty sad), with the unjustness of it all, and the frustrating realisation that even if there's nothing precisely like situation in the book, there's plenty of situations that are similar enough, and that the world portrayed in the book is entirely believable. The dehumanisation of the other as soon as we need them for something is one of humanity's most terrible abilities, and it's demonstrated to full extent here.

An amazing morality tale, especially through its lack of an overt moral.

To me the lack of an oppressive state or any authority figure really made the whole thing more powerful because it meant the book never had to get bogged down in arguing about the situation, rather letting the reader draw their own conclusions.

e:

Another application I like of the story is that of the human condition itself, as Tycho also said: we get born, we lose the use of our organs and we die. That's unfair, but what's to be done?

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Finished this morning, and while I'm still processing everything, there was something that nagged at me throughout:

I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that none of the donors ever seems to consider escape. I assumed it would have been a major theme - life finds a way and all that. Even after Kath and Tommy are told that there are no deferrals, I suspected at least a suggestion of alternative possibilities (from Tommy), but there is a bit of frustration followed by resignation.

Was this intentional? I found it difficult to empathise with Kath when she showed almost no interest in self-preservation. And it felt a bit inconsistent with other moments throughout the book which seem intended to emphasise the humanity of the donors.

 

 

I found this really distracting too, to the point of it making the book a lot less enjoyable to me. I get that it's intentional and people often don't do what's best for them but they obviously recognized that they were going to die if they stayed there and tried different things to get out of it. Not even one person had the thought of escape?

 

I guess I thought the book was still ok despite that. I'll probably need some time to let the book sink in. Maybe the podcast will change my mind.

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I found this really distracting too, to the point of it making the book a lot less enjoyable to me. I get that it's intentional and people often don't do what's best for them but they obviously recognized that they were going to die if they stayed there and tried different things to get out of it. Not even one person had the thought of escape?

 

I guess I thought the book was still ok despite that. I'll probably need some time to let the book sink in. Maybe the podcast will change my mind.

I feel like I'm just repeating myself, but maybe it will sink in the second time:

Both metaphorically and practically I think this works just fine. On a metaphorical level, the acceptance of death as something that just can't be avoided, because it's inevitable, and because this has been drilled into you as your destiny from the earliest age, is hardly an inconceivable mindset, right? I'm teaching the Iliad to students right now and one of the points that book hammers home is how humans are mortal. Our fate is to die. There is no getting around that. The clones in this book have the same approach to organ donation and death - is that so ridiculous?

On a practical level, people will put up with any old shit in the right circumstances. This is like asking why the population of North Korea doesn't just all rise up and liberate itself or why people on death row don't spend every day trying to break out of jail or why people in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany didn't all fight back or whatever. Humans are malleable and just because you imagine yourself trying to escape in this situation that doesn't mean it's implausible that there would be people (maybe even you, if you were in the same situation!) who wouldn't even conceive of fighting back or trying to escape.

I think people who are like "why don't they ever try to get away" are failing to look outside the difference in these two societies, ours and theirs. In contemporary Western society human rights are such a big deal that everyone is raised from the earliest age to think of themselves as special and inviolable. It's inconceivable that we'd ever harvest your organs against your will. But that's just a specific outlook we have in our society not some universal truth the whole world has always been convinced of.

If you don't believe me, look at how we treat non-humans. We harvest their organs, and their flesh, all the time. We breed them to have better organs and more flesh for us to harvest. We keep them in appalling conditions and make it illegal to film those conditions. We use euphemistic words to talk about what we do to them. And almost nobody gives a shit.

Imagine you went to a society that looked at us as monsters for what we do to non-humans. They ask "how can anyone be complicit in treating non-human animals like this? It's so obviously wrong!" My response would be "I tried not to be complicit. I was a vegan and I advocated for non-human animals. I did my best." What would your answer be? Why can't the characters in the book use your answer as a way to explain why they didn't try to escape?

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People who are putting out a potential flaw in the motivations of the characters should email that in to the podcast! It's really interesting point that I want us to discuss.

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People who are putting out a potential flaw in the motivations of the characters should email that in to the podcast! It's really interesting point that I want us to discuss.

You guys aren't taking comments from the threads anymore?

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You guys aren't taking comments from the threads anymore?

 No we are! Just also trying to encourage people to email in.

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I feel like I'm just repeating myself, but maybe it will sink in the second time:

Both metaphorically and practically I think this works just fine. On a metaphorical level, the acceptance of death as something that just can't be avoided, because it's inevitable, and because this has been drilled into you as your destiny from the earliest age, is hardly an inconceivable mindset, right? I'm teaching the Iliad to students right now and one of the points that book hammers home is how humans are mortal. Our fate is to die. There is no getting around that. The clones in this book have the same approach to organ donation and death - is that so ridiculous?

On a practical level, people will put up with any old shit in the right circumstances. This is like asking why the population of North Korea doesn't just all rise up and liberate itself or why people on death row don't spend every day trying to break out of jail or why people in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany didn't all fight back or whatever. Humans are malleable and just because you imagine yourself trying to escape in this situation that doesn't mean it's implausible that there would be people (maybe even you, if you were in the same situation!) who wouldn't even conceive of fighting back or trying to escape.

I think people who are like "why don't they ever try to get away" are failing to look outside the difference in these two societies, ours and theirs. In contemporary Western society human rights are such a big deal that everyone is raised from the earliest age to think of themselves as special and inviolable. It's inconceivable that we'd ever harvest your organs against your will. But that's just a specific outlook we have in our society not some universal truth the whole world has always been convinced of.

If you don't believe me, look at how we treat non-humans. We harvest their organs, and their flesh, all the time. We breed them to have better organs and more flesh for us to harvest. We keep them in appalling conditions and make it illegal to film those conditions. We use euphemistic words to talk about what we do to them. And almost nobody gives a shit.

Imagine you went to a society that looked at us as monsters for what we do to non-humans. They ask "how can anyone be complicit in treating non-human animals like this? It's so obviously wrong!" My response would be "I tried not to be complicit. I was a vegan and I advocated for non-human animals. I did my best." What would your answer be? Why can't the characters in the book use your answer as a way to explain why they didn't try to escape?

 

 

I don't agree with that though. There's definitely instances of people trying to escape from North Korea, concentration camps, and from slavery. I'm not asking for every character to revolt and fight against the man. I just think one or two of the characters should have had the thought.  

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I don't agree with that though. There's definitely instances of people trying to escape from North Korea, concentration camps, and from slavery. I'm not asking for every character to revolt and fight against the man. I just think one or two of the characters should have had the thought.  

But maybe they did, for all we know! The book just doesn't focus on those characters.

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I finished the book today. I was rather tickled to encounter again the town of Cromer in Norfolk, where I spent a pleasant few days on holiday last year. Ishiguro’s descriptions are apt, though quite vague on the details. It’s a charming little place, if a little down-at-heel compared to some of the more bijou seaside towns, but it has a magnificent Victorian pier and very good crab (both of which he totally fails to mention). 'Very flat, Norfolk,' as somebody once said. 

 

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Anyway, it was a little odd to begin reading this book with full knowledge of the central twist — I’d spoiled myself on its initial release years ago — but there was still a good deal about it that I found surprising. In spite of the cold-blooded prose, I think there’s actually a passionate and highly political novel lurking within the garb of science fiction here. 

 

The moment where Miss Lucy loses her rag at the kids seems to encapsulate the whole thing:

 

‘…The problem, as I see it, is that you’ve been told and not told. You’ve been told, but none of you really understand, and I dare say, some people are quite happy to leave it that way. But I’m not…None of you will go to America, none of you will be film stars. And none of you will be working in supermarkets as I heard some of you planning the other day. Your lives are set out for you…You were brought into this world for a purpose, and your futures, all of them, have been decided…’

 

I abridged the above quote to remove the actual references to organ harvesting because in some ways those words seem like the least important part of the speech. Taken on their own, her admonishment becomes a neat summary of the kind of deal the average British schoolchild makes with the state. I can recall hearing versions of this speech at school myself, usually delivered with the intent of inspiring humility in boisterous students. Written another way, it might read:

 

‘When you leave school, you must subdue personal ambition and give your time and body over to society. In return, society will look after you, and extend your life by artificial means — and it will only ask for a lifetime of quiet obedience and economically productive labour.’

 

The actual method of your demise is irrelevant. However you choose to work yourself to death, you’ve given the best of your life in support of something bigger than yourself. I guess this is what is called ‘managing expectations’ in the modern workplace.

 

Despite the fact that there’s much about the novel’s setting which is indistinct, I think there’s a lot about it which relates very specifically to the state of healthcare and education in the UK in the 90s and 00s. In recent years, the debate as to the purpose of education has swung well in favour of ‘freeing’ schools from the requirements of a national curriculum, and embracing career-linked vocational training at all levels of schooling. In a single generation, the idea of education as a universally accessible public good has basically disappeared from the political space. 

 

As for health, we still have the NHS, which remains free at point of delivery in principle, but there’s all kinds of caveats. The problem of financing social care for the elderly or for those with complex, long-term health conditions might be the biggest of these issues. How do we deal with an ageing population that is increasingly unable or unwilling to look after themselves in their twilight years? No solution has been forthcoming; and in the meantime, young people (many from abroad) shore up our economy while the retired enjoy a quality of life that their children are unlikely to ever share.

 

An alternative world can only be glimpsed through the cracks of Never Let Me Go. This is not because the novel itself is cynical, but because its characters can barely imagine another world that exists outside the confines of their upbringing. The effect is a little like engaging another person in conversation, only to discover through some offhand remark that they believe quite earnestly that the world is flat; here, young people seem to react with incomprehension to the idea that art might be worth something for its own sake. But why should they feel otherwise if they’ve only been educated to become accountants or nurses or gas engineers or copywriters — or organ donors? I would like to say this kind of casual philistinism is foreign to modern life in Britain, but as the novel suggests, it’s merely an extension of the schoolyard bullying that Tommy suffers until his inherent creativity is all but beaten out of him.

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Marginalgloss, great post. The interpretation of the donors as cogs in the capitalist machine is one that also occurred to me, and I think it works.

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