人真的是善忘的，有時候我真會完全忘記自己寫過的東西。這篇感想文寫在石黑一雄的Never Let Me Go出版後不久，一晃眼就過了這些年。昨天一邊看，一邊有種訝異的感覺。這幾年因為已經很久沒有這樣使用英文，好像也就跟著把過去的一切都忘記了。稍微修改了一些句子，但的確有點使不上力，也只有靠著繼續閱讀來充實自己。在修改的當中，心裡並沒有失落感，而讓我更明確感受到自己的熱情所在，很開心。
When a Clone Meets Jazz: A Thought About Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005)
The Booker-Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro published his sixth novel Never Let Me Go earlier this month. Set in theEngland in the late 1990s, the book is narrated by Kathy, who is now thirty-one years old and telling her life and friends back in her days at Hailsham, a boarding school for human clones. They were taught to be creative in art and literature, but the ultimate purpose for their existence was organ donations. When they left the school, they would be the “carers” for other donors, became donors themselves, and finally “completed” their lives after several donations. However, there was a rumor about a chance of “deferral”–deferring the time of donation–if two clones could prove they were really in love of each other. It was this rumor that brought hope to Kathy and her friends, Ruth and Tommy, but it was also this rumor that led them to the answers beneath the puzzles they failed to understand when they were children.
Although the story sounds a bit sci-fi, Never Let Me Go is not a typical science fiction. There is no description about science or technology. There seems to be a reflection on the ethics of biotechnology, such as what we should do to treat clones properly, but the book is, metaphorically, more about us, about how we are going to live with the knowledge of our limited lives, and about how we are to live with evaporation of hope. As Ishiguro’s sixth novel, Never Let Me Go does share something with its predecessors: the surface calmness that hides regret and anguish, or the narrator’s understated narrative. However, there is still certain warmth at the end of the story: it says life can be short, but memory will last. Compared with the author’s previous works, Never Let Me Go shows a more philosophical and optimistic attitude to one’s limited and irrevocable life.
When the book title was announced several months ago, the first thing I thought of was Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender.” Although my guess was wrong–there is no Elvis–the book did mention a song called “Never Let Me Go.” It was what the eleven-year-old Kathy found in a tape entitled Songs after Dark, track number three, sung by Judy Bridgewater. The information about the lyrics was spare: Kathy only remembered the woman singing “Baby, baby, never let me go.” At the time she thought the song was about a woman who could never have children but finally got one, and so she held her baby and sang happily “Baby, baby, never let me go.” One afternoon, Kathy played the song, imagining herself as the woman, holding a pillow as if it were a baby, and dancing with the music. Her playing caught a researcher in tears, who was standing in the doorway and watching Kathy.
This is one of the impressive moments in the book. You will read in the later chapters how Kathy and the researcher interpret this scene, but the background music, “Never Let Me Go,” remains a mystery. What does it exactly sound like? Kathy spares her description, merely saying the female singer was one of those from her own time who sings “cocktail stuff.” I try to google the song title and the name of the singer, but the result is disappointing: there is no woman called Judy Bridgewater who sings “Never Let Me Go” whose lyrics goes like Kathy remembered. Perhaps finding a fictional song in reality is bound to fail because, after all, a novel has no obligation to promise its referents are out there in the real world.
So with my limited knowledge I try to imagine the song as what Nat King Cole might sing, some jazz tune that makes you feel like sitting in a small pub with people drinking and smoking. Actually, I do find Nat King Cole ever sang a song called “Never Let Me Go.” It was made by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans for Michael Curtiz’s film The Scarlet Hour. It is rarely seen in Nat Cole’s compilations available in our local stores, but I just got another version by DinahWashington, recorded in1956 inNew York. Although the lyrics does not include anything like “Baby, baby, never let me go,” it is enough for me to imagine an eleven-year-old girl sways to the music like this, holding a pillow in her arms. She is a clone and she can never have children. What she softly sings and pretends to do is something that she can never achieve. This could be a lot of pain, but she seems very happy and enjoys her little play. To me, jazz is also a mixture of opposite emotions: it can sound delightful when it talks about something painful. It is not likely to know what a fictional tune sounds like, and my guess can be far from what the author has in mind, but as to a world made of imagination, who can be totally wrong about it?
Never Let Me Go is published by Faber and Faber.
Author biography: Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki in 1954 but moved toEnglandwhen he was five. His father was an oceanographer and joined in the research project about North Seaheld by the British Government. In his childhood, Ishiguro was often promised to return toJapan, but the promise finally broke when he was sixteen: his father decided to stay inEngland. Like people who grew up in the 60s, Ishiguro was deeply influenced by Bob Dylan. He wrote many song lyrics and dreamed of being a rock star. This adolescent dream wasn’t realized, but the songwriting became his early attempt to write creatively. He studied English at Universityof Kentand received an MA in creative writing at University of East Anglia.
Ishiguro is one of the British contemporary authors whose works can be both an intellectual and commercial success. His first novel, A Pale View of Hills （群山淡景）, was published in 1982 and won Winifred Holtby Prize. His second novel, An Artist of the Floating World（浮世畫家）, was published in 1986 and won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. Both novels were set in the post-war Nagasaki and much praised for their elegant language and realistic portrayal. However, Ishiguro was disturbed by the compliments, which somehow implied his full understanding about Japan. That was partly why he made his third novel, The Remains of the Day（長日將盡）, set in England. The book won the 1989 Booker Prize and was made into a film later. The success of the film made the book an international bestseller and Ishiguro’s most famous work to date. His fourth novel, The Unconsoled, was a great departure from the previous three. A pianist who lost his schedule, an unknown city that emphasized on the value of music, and the dreamy atmosphere pervading the book, all these baffled and challenged his reviewers and readers. His fifth novel, When We Were Orphans（我輩孤雛）, shortlisted for the Booker Prize again, combined his experiment with his elegant prose. It was a story about an English detective, who spent his childhood in Shanghai and returned years later for his lost parents. His latest novel, Never Let Me Go （別讓我走）, has been highly expected since its publication was announced. Writing six novels in more than twenty years, Kazuo Ishiguro shows a great ambition to create his “Ishiguro land.”
Kazuo Ishiguro，在中文的世界裡把這個名字譯成「石黑一雄」，然而這個日本名字，卻是被日本人用片假名來拼的。似乎他對於日本人來說，算是一個外國人。 繼續閱讀