"Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro

Nacido en Nagasaki pero criado en Inglaterra, Ishiguro ganó el Premio Nobel de Literatura en 2017 por la “gran fuerza emocional” de novelas como esta, una historia de formación con toques de ciencia ficción.

Lourdes Gràcia

Bandera UK
Sarah Davison

Speaker (UK accent)

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Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro

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Kazuo Ishiguro's sixth and perhaps most intriguing novel to date is constructed as if it were a dream. Characters’ memories, reliable and unreliable, often escape the reader’s understanding.

memory and fate

More than by the original, disturbing story, which tackles themes like friendship, nostalgia and identity, we are tantalised by these enigmatic memories, and see how they help the main characters understand and accept their lives, and the terrible fate that awaits them. Ishiguro explores the ways in which the malleability of memory helps people get on with their lives. For instance, Kathy, the main character, says:

“What I really wanted, I suppose, was to get straight all the things that happened between me and Tommy and Ruth after we grew up and left Hailsham. But I realise now just how much of what occurred later came out of our time at Hailsham and that’s why I want first to get over these earlier memories quite carefully.”

“Lo que realmente pretendía, supongo, era poner en claro las cosas que sucendieron entre Tommy y Ruth y yo despues de hacernos mayores y dejar Hailsham. Pero ahora me doy cuenta de que, en gran medida, lo que ocurrió más tarde tuvo su origen en nuestra época de Hailsham, y por eso, antes que nada, quiero examinar detenidamente esos recuerdos tempranos.”


Never Let Me Go is, paradoxically, a sad story but a delight to read. Much of its appeal and tragic effect is based on empathy because Ishiguro succeeds in making the reader feel what the characters feel. Also, as we go on reading, we are overwhelmed by a compelling curiosity to know what happened earlier on and what’s going to happen next.

“We couldn’t understand how you could ever get like that. And I was just having this idea, just a thought really. I was thinking maybe the reason you used to get like that was because at some level you always knew.”

“No podíamos comprender cómo cogías aquellas rabietas. Y me ha venido a la cabeza la idea, bueno, una especie de pensamiento. Que quizá la razon de que te pusieras como te ponías era que, de una manera o de otra, tú siempre lo supiste.”

three friends

The novel is the story of three genetically-engineered children. It follows in flashback the life story of Kathy, who is thirty-one at the beginning of the novel. Kathy and her friends Ruth and Tom spent their childhood sheltered from the outside world at Hailsham, a special boarding school in the English countryside. There, the children learnt that they were "different from any other children" and brought up to believe that their good health and happiness were supremely important for the society they would eventually enter. Their lessons involved only art and poetry. The children were encouraged to express themselves creatively.

“A lot of the time, how you were regarded at Hailsham, how much you were liked and respected, had to do with how good you were at creating.”

“Muchas veces, el nivel de consideración que conseguías en Hailsham, de cuánto podías gustar y ser respetado, tenía mucho que ver con lo bueno que eras en tus «creaciones»“.

Eventually they find out about their non-human condition as well as their dark purpose in the world and why they had a different childhood.


Never Let Me Go can be interpreted in many ways: as a warning against the misuse of science and the ethical issues surrounding genetic engineering, or as a challenge to the notion of friendship. Above all, though, it is a metaphor that explores what it means to be human.

“Tommy, just listen. You’re really lucky. Of all the people here, you’ve got Ruth fancying you. After we leave, if you’re with her, you won’t have to worry. She’s the best, you’ll be fine so long as you’re with her. She’s saying she wants a fresh start. So don’t blow it.”

“–Tommy, escúchame. Eres afortunado. De todos los chicos que hay aquí, eres el que te has llevado a Ruth. Cuando nos vayamos, si estás con ella, no tendrás que preocuparte. Es la mejor, y mientras estés con ella estarás bien. Dice que quiere empezar de cero. Así que no lo estropees.”

in film

Director Mark Romanek and writer Alex Garland brought Ishiguro's story to the screen in 2010. Never Let Me Go stars Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley. But despite the intelligent script, excellent performances by the actors and the stunning photography, the film didn’t connect with audiences.  It seems that the scope of the novel was too great for a film.

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