11 February 2011

Torija (Elegia)

I've just finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. I'd watched the movie a week or so ago, and while I found myself growing impatient at times because of the slow pace, once the film ended, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Certainly, both book and film touch on the unbelievable cruelties humans will inflict on one another in the name of science, health, politics, whatever. Groups of outcasts, lower classes, form their own cliques and mistreat others within their own group. Children in particular can be very nasty to and about each other, even when faced with the sort of horror that the children in this story are ultimately expected to face. There was nothing in the narrative that was particularly ground breaking in this regard. And I found it unsurprising that the characters went so quietly to their slaughter; it is what they were bred for, what they were born to, told and not told, their fate. Don't our children largely do the same? They are raised to certain expectations, set on certain paths, good and bad, by their parents and their community, be those influences positive or negative. Even at the end of the day, Miss Emily, the head guardian, sounding so like a parent, points out all the advantages that were secured for those in her care: culture, education, a "good" life, whatever the outcome may be.

What struck me most about the story was the way in which it approached mortality, and perhaps that's because mortality and inevitability have been much on my mind.

One of the centerpieces of Never Let Me Go is that these characters can't expect to live even until middle age. None of us ever worry about that as children; like Scarlett O'Hara, we'll think about it tomorrow. And then too suddenly, there we are, children no more, young adults no more, marching inexorably to our ends, wondering how it all passed so quickly.

Lately, I've been reading the writings of a woman, a young woman, who has been diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer. She's only just realized that her doctors have stopped talking about a cure, and are now focused on buying her what time they can. Most of us don't tend to think about just how finite our lives are, and the truth is that no one of us--healthy or ill--knows if we will be here tomorrow. And at the end of the film version of Never Let Me Go, Kathy H., who is facing the end of her short life, muses on the fact that no matter how much or how little time we have, it's probably never enough.

Go listen to some good music: "Torija (Elegia)" by Federico Moreno Torroba, performed by Andres Segovia, from the album Essential Guitar. Sometimes, I'm accused of being too subtle, but the title here makes perfect sense to me..

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