Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled
Of all his novels, this is the one that is least Ishiguro-like. Indeed, if you read it without knowing it was by Ishiguro, you might suspect a sort of mild-mannered, surrealistic Kafka. Ryder is a well-known concert pianist and arrives in an unnamed European city which may be modeled on Prague but then, there again, it may not. What is sure is that Ryder knows too much and too little. He knows too little in that he seems to be unsure about why he is here and what he is doing. At the same time, he seems to know people and places and things, he couldn’t/shouldn’t have known. Various people seem to get involved in his life in a strange way – the hotel manager, the porter and his family, a drunken conductor and others. He wanders round the hotel and city and keeps finding himself where he shouldn’t be – back at the hotel when he is apparently miles from it or at a banquet in his dressing gown.
Ryder’s role, as he soon discovers, is nothing short of the artistic revitalization of the city, which has fallen on hard times. With these expectations on him, it may be no surprise that he is somewhat disorientated. However, it is soon apparent that we are no longer in the logic of the real world but the logic of a dream where it is quite acceptable to appear at a banquet in your dressing gown or find people that you don’t now but that you do know. Ishiguro’s skill is in maintaining this logic for an entire (and lengthy) book and dragging us into this dream-world in such a convincing manner.
First published 1995 by Faber & Faber