Changing States: Examining Postmodern concepts of adaptation in Ali Smiths Hotel World and Kazuo Ishiguros Never Let Me Go

Alexander Abichou


This article will examine two main areas of metatextuality in contemporary literature by carrying out a comparative analysis of Ali Smiths Hotel World and Kazuo Ishiguros Never Let Me Go. Firstly, examining the relation between postmodernity and spectrality. Secondly, investigating the ways that literary theories of adaptation can be applied to notions of the posthumous and the posthuman.

Never Let Me Go centres around the theme of cloning to disrupt traditional beliefs of the human as both origin and originator by portraying a group of schoolchildren whose identity as a clone is tied directly to their function as product customized for the very specific purpose of donating organs. In particular, it reveals an innate drive towards imitation and adaptation within humanity by exposing a community whose purpose of life is to find their original copy, learn how to be human through creating artwork and, having failed those tasks, die. Likewise, Hotel World uncovers a profound connection between the phantasmal and the postmodern as both exemplify a state of being that is both after itself and projected forward in which any stable ground for identity is removed in favour of a spectral, fragmented existence.

Both Smith and Ishiguro explore themes of forgotten identity and displaced subjectivity wherein the present is constantly haunted by past lives and characters must fight against the encroaching fear that their existence is nothing more than the reiteration of something already completed. To adapt is a form of appropriation by indirectly living the lives of several subjects through the lens of a single person it is inevitable that the individual will be unable to separate ideas of autonomy and/or sovereignty from the traces that constitute them. Adaptation is driven by a need to be authentic which is characteristic of a being-unto-death because seeking to be original and therefore, without precedent, is to exist free from the very body that gave it form.


Adaptation; Spectrality; Postmodernity; Metatextuality; Subjectivity

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