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THE UNCONSOLED by Kazuo Ishiguro


by Kazuo Ishiguro

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-40425-2
Publisher: Knopf

The mixed blessings of celebrity and the estrangement from "normal life" of those who live for art are given haunting emotional and symbolic dimension: an imaginatively conceived and executed novel by the author of The Remains of the Day (1989), etc. The spirit and example of Kafka seem to hover over Ishiguro's mysteriously exfoliating plot, in which a celebrated concert pianist named Ryder finds warm welcome and much more in an unfamiliar (and unnamed) European city where, it seems, he has promised to perform a recital. Ryder is eagerly, even obsequiously greeted by a parade of strangers who nevertheless subject him to elaborate disquisitions about crises in their lives to which they beg him to devote attention. "Much was expected of me," Ryder repeatedly muses as one distraction follows another. Gustav, the elderly hotel porter, begs the influential celebrity to speak on behalf of him and his co-workers, and Ryder is persuaded to meet briefly with Gustav's troubled daughter and her small son. The hotel manager asks Ryder's advice for his son, a hopeful pianist of no particular talent. Orchestra conductor Brodsky, a drunken has-been mourning the death of his beloved dog, becomes another burden Ryder finds he cannot shirk...and on it goes. Gradually, Ryder experiences momentary memory flashes during which he realizes he does know things about these people, not excluding their most intimate thoughts. Are they relations and acquaintances whose closeness to him he's forgotten or repressed? Or people whose lives only coincidentally impinge on and resemble his own (a general truth he may have neglected to absorb)? Both possibilities are juggled expertly throughout this long, complex, though never tedious book's ingenious development. Elegantly written, mischievously funny, teasingly provocative, and enigmatic: Ishiguro's challenging portrayal of the isolated artistic temperament simultaneously reveals its naked contingent humanity. A brilliant novel that will almost certainly be remembered as one of the best of the decade.