“I want to be in your arms, where you hold me tight and Never let me go.” ― Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
I am retired. I only write reviews of books that have moved into and are camped out in my mind along with books by Thoreau, Russell, Doctorow. Dostoevsky, Dickens, Hemingway and Frost. There are some books about which I only want you to know. It is OK that you only read my review as if they were Cliff’s Notes. That will not do for this moral masterpiece. I have added it as thirty-first on my Literature Essentials Home Page.
Here is a book that I want you to read and then to listen to it read to you, beautifully, by Rosalyn Landor. I have been through it three times.
Do yourself a favor: after you read my review, I want you to listen to it read with Landor’s haunting voice.
I believe you will say to the author, Kazuo Ishiguro, “Never let me go.”
“You can live without the person who says You are mine. But you can not live without someone who says I am yours. May you be blessed with at least one such person in life!”― Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
“Kazuo Ishiguro OBE, FRSA, FRSL (Japanese: カズオ・イシグロ or 石黒一雄; born 8 November 1954) is a British novelist, screenwriter and short story writer. He was born in Nagasaki, Japan; his family moved to England in 1960 when he was five. Ishiguro obtained his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Kent in 1978 and his Master’s from the University of East Anglia’s creative-writing course in 1980. is one of the most celebrated contemporary fiction authors in the English-speaking world, having received four Man Booker Prize nominations, and winning the 1989 award for his novel The Remains of the Day. In 2008, The Times ranked Ishiguro 32nd on their list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945” (1)
If you have read my essays or previous book reviews, you know that my motive force is to elevate, enhance, and preserve the value of every human life.Also, to promote the highest quality of “the road” for the journey of our sons and daughters. I want to help the community. I am reaching out to adversaries, asking them to protect these values in varying cultures and nationalities.
This tome is a landmark book. As a teacher, clinical researcher, and physician, I urge you to study this book. It should be required reading for medical school and graduate students
“Relationship is not just holding hands while you understand each other. its also having lots of misunderstandings and still not leaving each other’s hands.”― Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
For the benefit of younger readers, It is essential to review for you one example of an infamous and misguided attempt where “an End is proposed to Justifying the Means.”
“When the Soviet army liberated the Auschwitz death camp 70 years ago many of the prisoners had been killed or marched away by the retreating Nazis. But among those left were some twin children – the subject of disturbing experiments by Dr Josef Mengele.
Vera Kriegel and her twin sister Olga were just five years old when they were taken from their village in Czechoslovakia to Auschwitz.
Transported in cattle cars which were so tightly packed that the dead were still standing, she recalls the “sheer terror” of arriving at the camp and treading on “dead people like steps” as she left the train.
New arrivals at the camp were sorted into the weak, who would be gassed straight away, and the strong, who would be made to work. But Mengele and his assistants were there too, looking for twins.
Vera, her sister, and her mother were taken straight to SS Captain Josef Mengele. He was intrigued; she says, by what he described as her mother’s “perfect Aryan features” and blue eyes while Vera’s and her sisters were brown.
Mengele selected them for experimentation.
Another woman who remembers her arrival at the camp is Jona Laks, who was taken as a teenager from the Lodz ghetto. She was not immediately recognised as a twin and was initially sent off in the direction of the gas chamber – when her sister told Mengele they were twins he had her brought to his laboratory
Josef Mengele was an assistant to a well-known researcher who studied twins at the Institute for Heredity Biology and Racial Hygiene in Frankfurt – he started working at Auschwitz in May 1943.
There he had an unlimited supply of twins to study, and he wouldn’t get in trouble if they died.
According to Prof Paul Weindling of Oxford Brookes University, author of Victims and Survivors of Nazi Human Experiments, hundreds of children were used in Mengele’s experiments.
“I found a record of a prisoner doctor and bacteriologist who was forced to work for Mengele that there were 732 pairs of twins,” he says, and suggests the doctor was interested in genetics. “I think Mengele might have been interested in the inheritance of the propensity to having twins.”
He believes many of the twins survived Auschwitz, although he thinks Roma twins were almost certainly killed.
“I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart. That’s how it is with us. It’s a shame, Kath, because we’ve loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can’t stay together forever.”
― Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
Ishiguro, an unquestionably a master of deliberate literary construction has chosen to capture his reader’s identity and affection, to Kathy H., Ruth and Tommy, with a coming-of-age-tale. Young people are described in a, not uncommon, British boarding school. We are allowed the intimate participation of the loyalties and trivial clique activities and jealousies I was deep into the book before I suspected the great moral lesson that I believe was Ishiguro’s message. I guess he thought holding the moral lesson until late in the book would make the teaching more effective. From Kathy H.’s opening narrative, she says she is “carer” to people who are “donors” These terms raised my suspicions but I did not get, early, the hint that Ishiguro leaves the reader. In the later part of the book, you will gradually discover his lesson.
“This book is about the value of unique individual humans lives. The master storyteller weaves, not just a single tale, but THREE stories in parallel, a task beyond my expectations. (a) a tender platonic LOVE STORY (b) an MYSTERY-THRILLER (c) a SCATHING CRITIQUE of the limits of the use of humans as research subjects.
From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, comes an unforgettable edge-of-your-seat mystery that is at once heartbreaking tender and morally courageous about what it means to be human.”
Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy become adults do they, and the reader learn the truth of what their benefactors have done in a lesson of “the end does not justify the mean”. More importantly it is a scathing critique of human arrogance and a moral examination of how we how we treat the vulnerable in our society. There are also themes of memory, the impact of the past and a warning to future generations.
“I cannot lose you, because if I ever did, I’d have lost my best friend, my soul mate, my smile, my laugh, my everything.” Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
Charles Clanton Rogers, AB, MD, FACR Emeritus Professor GWU
September 14, 2015
(2) BBC The Twins of Auschwitz
By Andy Walker
28 January 2015
©2005 Kazuo Ishiguro; (P)2005 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.