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The Unconsoled [Paperback]

Kazuo Ishiguro
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'THE UNCONSOLED' - ISHIGURO'S GREATEST YET June 16 2003
By A Customer
The hero of Ishiguro's novel, Mr Ryder, is a man who has definitively "lost the plot", along with his senses of identity, time and place....it follows that the plot of this novel can be described only in fragmentary outline.
Mr Ryder arrives in an unnamed place for an unspecified event and is greeted by characters whose roles and personalities never emerge fully, making the rationality or otherwise of their behaviour impossible to assess. He is thus vulnerable to, by turns, manipulation and delusion.
We learn that Mr Ryder has through the demands of his professional life lost all but tenuous contact with his wife and child - opportunity after opportunity occurs for him to re-engage, but he repeatedly fails to rise to the occasion and withstand countervailing distractions. He has been travelling between time zones, and is constantly surprised that it is night or morning unexpectedly, or he is suddenly overwhelmingly exhausted (but never its opposite). He has been successful and famous, but is now threatened with the downsides: inability to live up to his reputation, survive re-evaluation, or satisfy the expectations of infatuated groupies.
Neither the reader nor the "hero" is clear what his relationship is to this town and country. Is he an émigré returning? From where? Certain scenes remind him of middle England, and he remembers with sudden urgency that he must fly to Helsinki for his next (again, unspecified) engagement. Meanwhile, he encounters this town as an anxiety-ridden stranger: obliged to travel to various engagements without knowledge of geography, transportation modes, or local etiquette.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Intellectual and the bulldozers Jan. 16 2002
By thera
In The Unconsoled Ishiguro has painted a vast landscape of our contemporary world, the principal forces that have shaped it and the human beings that populate it. It is neither a dream nor a nightmare as many of the reviewers seem to believe, unless the ignorance, pompousness, insensitivity -aesthetic and moral - portrayed by most of the characters of this landscape constitute a nightmare. Perhaps it does in Ishiguro's mind.
In this panorama the "characters" play their roles against the backdrop of Kishiguro's principal message: a gray, moribund society has created a cultural paralysis of emotions preventing people from communicating their true feelings to the person to whom it would matter, turning all communication into a banal distortion of these feelings, a mere aping of the socially accepted clichés of the collectivity.
A secondary motif is reflected in those "characters" who are so coarse as to be incapable of feelings: they are like bulldozers which have the force to advance, crushing everything in their path. The main protagonist, Ryder, who represents the supposedly highest expression of our culture - artistic and intellectual excellence - would be expected to have the insight and intelligence to reflect on this scene and explain the impasse. But, in fact, he proves to be just as coarse and devoid of feelings (other than total egoism) as the "bulldozers". The difference between them is that he succeeds in hiding this moral void, aided by the stupidity and conformity of a world which identifies his "refined manners" (or sophistry) with true intellectual depth.
May I suggest that the apparently surreal landscape is easily deciphered if the puzzled reader uses the following key to the novel's symbolism for society's stereotypes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ambiguity and Surrealism May 21 2002
By A Customer
Kazuo Ishiguro is one of my favorite authors and, although I think "The Remains of the Day" is a more perfect book, "The Unconsoled" is one of my favorites.
Unlike "The Remains of the Day," "The Unconsoled" is set in a distinctly Eastern European city (I personally thought of Prague when I read the book) and contains none of the very proper "Englishness" that Ishiguro evoked so perfectly in "The Remains of the Day." And, while most of Ishiguro's other books are very "clean," "The Unconsoled" is complex and multi-layered; it is filled with ambiguity and surreal juxtapositions that only grow as one delves deeper and deeper into the world inhabited by Ryder and those around him.
Ryder, an Englishman, is a world-renowned pianist who has traveled to an unnamed European city where he is expected to give the performance of a lifetime. The trouble is, Ryder can't remember traveling to this city or even agreeing to play there.
It's clear that the city's inhabitants feel their future is riding on Ryder's performance. This city is a city beset with problems of one sort and another, but its citizens all seem to feel that these problems can be solved through aesthetic (here, take "aesthetic" to mean "music") progression and appreciation and they are depending on Ryder to fill the void. This turns Ryder from a confused and dazed musician into a something of a cultural messiah. Or does it? Can aesthetic appreciation solve a plethora of woes or does it simply lead to woes of another kind instead?
The main story problem in "The Unconsoled" is the town's desire for Ryder to rescue them from their lack of artistic development.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Even Good Enough to Finish
I was really looking forward to reading this. I couldn't even finish it. It wasn't the fact that the book reads like weird dream. Read more
Published on June 16 2003 by EHB
4.0 out of 5 stars Frustratingly good
"The Unconsoled" is frustrating, at first, in its lack of spatial and temporal relationships and is very much a post modern novel in that regard. Read more
Published on March 15 2002 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars What a book!!!
Wow! This book is wonderful. I entered the dream-world of a man's subconscience and found a story I couldn't stop reading. Forget conventional writing. Read more
Published on Dec 24 2001 by Q LL
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable, but true
The thing that amazed me more than everything else in this book, is that I finished it. Yes, I did, 535 pages without love stories, no plot, no action, no sex (well, once, where an... Read more
Published on Dec 3 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Benefit of Hindsight
I read this book a few years back after enjoying Remains of the Day and Artist in a Floating World. This one I found somewhat frustrating and infuriating yet persisted to the end... Read more
Published on Nov. 29 2001 by BooksRuleAZ
5.0 out of 5 stars Anxiety Dream -- well done
This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you are an axious person and dream of almost, but not quite, getting there -- wherever you are trying to get in life -- this book's... Read more
Published on Nov. 13 2001 by Zenon W. Pylyshyn
1.0 out of 5 stars Console me, dammit
My exasperated sighing was keeping my boyfriend up.
"Now what?"
"Well, the narrator and his forgotten child-to-support and the woman who may or may not be... Read more
Published on Nov. 1 2001
2.0 out of 5 stars He just did not pull it off
This book had great potential. I am generally a very big fan of the Kafka-esque sort of dreamy, messes-with-your-mind writing style. Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2001 by alchemist42
1.0 out of 5 stars Faint praise
Ishuguro does a magnificant job of creating the sense of frustration that one experiences in a dream, simlar to the "old hag" - dreams where you can't run, or can't get... Read more
Published on Aug. 20 2001 by Mike Spearns
5.0 out of 5 stars Uniquely accurate dream portrayal
Of course this is a dream ! What is more, it is the most accurate depiction of the dream experience I have ever encountered. Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2001 by R. Ball
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