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The Unconsoled Paperback – May 28 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
A renowned pianist finds himself in a mysterious and dreamlike urban maze.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Library Journal
As stylistically distinctive as his acclaimed The Remains of the Day (LJ 10/1/89), Ishiguro's newest work offers a different kind of protagonist. While Remains's butler was at odds with himself (without knowing it), prominent concert pianist Ryder is at odds with his surroundings. Ryder arrives in an unidentified European city at a bit of a loss. Everyone he meets seems to assume that he knows more than he knows, that he is well acquainted with the city and its obscure cultural crisis. A young woman he kindly consents to advise seems to have been an old lover and her son quite possibly his own; he vaguely recalls past conversations. The world he has entered is a surreal, Alice-in-Wonderland place where a door in a cafe can lead back to a hotel miles away. The result is at once dreamy, disorienting, and absolutely compelling; Ishiguro's paragraphs, though Proust-like, are completely lucid and quite addictive to read. Some readers may find that the whole concept grinds too much against logic, but the pleasure here is that Ishiguro doesn't do anything so ordinary as trying to resolve events neatly, instead taking them at face value. Highly recommended.
--Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I couldn't finish this book. There is no reason to care about the characters or feel any empathy toward them. There is no discernible time or place. Read morePublished 6 months ago by JMP
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 morePublished on June 16 2003 by EHB
"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 morePublished on March 15 2002 by Amazon Customer
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 morePublished on Dec 24 2001 by Q LL
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 morePublished on Dec 3 2001
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 morePublished on Nov. 29 2001 by BooksRuleAZ
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 morePublished on Nov. 13 2001 by Zenon W. Pylyshyn
My exasperated sighing was keeping my boyfriend up.
"Well, the narrator and his forgotten child-to-support and the woman who may or may not be... Read more
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 morePublished on Sept. 27 2001 by alchemist42