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The Unconsoled Paperback – October 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A renowned pianist finds himself in a mysterious and dreamlike urban maze.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 535 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679735879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679735878
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kazuo Ishiguro is the author of six novels, including the international bestsellers The Remains of the Day (winner of the Booker Prize) and Never Let Me Go. He received an OBE for service to literature and the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

170 of 177 people found the following review helpful By Anna Klein on May 6, 2003
Format: Audio Cassette
THE UNCONSOLED is the most frustrating book I've ever read. It's also one of the most rewarding. It wasn't until I reached the end that I began to understand it, and I would never have reached the end at all if I hadn't listened to the audio version. David Case delivers an excellent narration, his calm, dry approach highlighting the emotions in each situation and his analytical, english accent well suited to the book's formal, elaborate tone.
Mr. Ryder, a world renowned pianist, has just arrived in an unidentified city for reasons he can no longer remember, except it seems he has some moral duty to help the city's occupants and he is to give a concert and speech on the coming Thursday night. Since Case uses a slightly Germanic accent for the city's people, one can assume the unnamed city is in Germany. The city is apparently a cultural and musical center that has fallen on hard times after idolizing the wrong musician and now has its hope of redemption pinned on another, ailing musician, Mr. Leo Brodsky. The entire city is coddling Brodsky along in the hopes he will manage a spectacular performance on this important Thursday night.
Every character Ryder encounters greets him most obsequiously while begging of him some small favor -- critiquing a piano piece, visiting a particular restaurant, studying some albums -- until he (and the reader) is overcome with exhaustion. Yet Ryder always feels the need to listen to these longwinded concerns and to try to offer some help, for he has both the sense of having been brought here to make things right and of his own overblown self importance. Although he feels a stranger to these people, it becomes obvious he isn't -- he has been to this city before and has a life with a woman, Sophie, and her small boy, Boris.
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63 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Incantessimo VINE VOICE on November 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
In The Remains of the Day Ishiguro perfected the writing style he had begun in his first two books, and after its success he proclaimed his desire to write something different, 'rougher'. The Unconsoled is the product of five years' work by this acclaimed writer, and 'rough' -- as in difficult -- is indeed a word that might be used to describe it.
First of all, it is a massive book. Secondly, it has no plot. Thirdly, it doesn't make any sense. Huh?
If you've read Kafka (especially The Castle) the solution to this riddle will be easy to explain: The Unconsoled is a modern-day Kafka-esque dream-world social commentary on the individual and society. As with Kafka, the theme is alientation of the individual from society, others, and himself. Ishiguro delves into the question of why we are often so incapable when it comes to interacting with the people we care most about. In the words of a song from the musical Chess the theme is: 'How can I love you so much, yet make no move?' Ishiguro's cast is comprised of parents and children, husbands and wives, who because of their own human weakness find it almost impossible to say the simplest of things, or make the simplest of actions, and thereby allow their relationships to deteriorate -- slowly, frustratingly, continuously.
The setting is an unspecified central European city in decline, whose citizens view the protagonist, the famous pianist Charles Ryder, as a kind of saviour who will revive their city's fortunes. But of course, no external solution is possible, and Ryder must fail, even as he watches his own personal life crumbling before his inactivity.
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60 of 64 people found the following review helpful By on December 11, 1997
Format: Hardcover
I read this book last year after completing a high school English assignment which included the reading of Ishiguro's Remains of the Day. After being astounded by the literary merit and quality of this work, I just had to read another. Well, as those of you who have read both can attest to, I was definitely surprised. The Unconsoled centers around Mr. Ryder, a renowned pianist who comes to play in a small European town (which incidentally, remains unnamed). Right from the start, the reader learns that through his performance, he is somehow expected to save the city from their own cultural degredation. How he is supposed to do this, we don't really know. This confusion remains throughout the book, and it is not for the faint hearted. Ishiguro spares no expense in describing the frustration that Ryder is feeling, creating a suureal dreamworld setting, in which time and space have no meaning (as we know them). Consider an elevator ride in a hotel up 2 floors in which an entire 10 minute conversation is held. Consider doors popping up all over the place that lead Ryder back to his hotel, even though he may have driven a great distance to get there. Consider a wall, strectched across the street for no apparent reason, which simply hinders Ryder from getting to where he wants to go. All of these are described with such a sense of reality and matter-of-factness that they are made to appear like normal ocurrences. Ishiguro's novel is a masterpiece in that it draws the reader in. It is not just about Mr. Ryder -- it is about the reader as well. It is about the frustrations and about the dreamlike quality that everyone's life takes on at times. It is about art, and the power it has over a society. It is about artists, and the enormous cultural burdens and responsibilities they experience.Read more ›
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