"Almost certainly a masterpiece." (Anita Brookner). Ryder, a renowned pianist, arrives in a Central European city he cannot identify for a concert he cannot remember agreeing to give. But then as he traverses a landscape by turns eerie and comical - and always strangely malleable, as a dream might be - he comes steadily to realise he is facing the ...
"Almost certainly a masterpiece." (Anita Brookner). Ryder, a renowned pianist, arrives in a Central European city he cannot identify for a concert he cannot remember agreeing to give. But then as he traverses a landscape by turns eerie and comical - and always strangely malleable, as a dream might be - he comes steadily to realise he is facing the most crucial performance of his life. Ishiguro's extraordinary and original study of a man whose life has accelerated beyond his control was met on publication by consternation, vilification - and the highest praise. If you enjoyed The Unconsoled, you might also like Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, now available in Faber Modern Classics.
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Ishiguro's understanding of the social role of art music is wonderful. Nothing professional musicians or academics (and I am one) comes close; we ignore or defend the effete, the ridiculous, the nonsensical. I am tremendously impressed by the knowledge underlying this satire.
Publishers Weekly, 1995-07-03 With this stunning new novel, cast in the form of a postmodern nightmare, Ishiguro tells a powerful story in which he once again exploits a narrator's utter lack of self-knowledge to create a devastating deadpan irony. A celebrated concert pianist identified only as Mr Ryder arrives at an unnamed European (seemingly Germanic) city not only to give a concert but also, it seems, to address the townspeople and help them surmount a communal sense of crisis that stems from the city's inability to nurture a musical artist of outstanding creative talent. Strangely, the economic, social and psychic health of the community depends on its regaining its self-image in the wake of a dreadful past mistake, when the city fathers lionized a musician with the ``wrong'' artistic values. Ryder intuits this situation gradually, for he is curiously disoriented; he can't really remember what he's supposed to be doing there. In fact, through Ryder's confused perceptions, the reader is immediately plunged into a surrealistic landscape that has the eerie unpredictability, claustrophobic atmosphere and strange time sequences of a dream. Everyone in this town presents a false image to the world. Each person Ryder meets addresses him with fawning obsequiousness and asks him for a small favor which turns out to be an egregious intrusion into his time. Yet Ryder, infused with an inflated sense of mission, feels a need to console them: ``People need me. I arrive in a place and find terrible problems, and people are so grateful I've come.'' Although he initially thinks he's a stranger in the city, it slowly becomes obvious that he's been here before. In fact, he has been the lover of a woman called Sophie whose little boy, Boris, in many ways replays the pivotal events of Ryder's own life. With dream logic, many of Ryder's childhood friends from England turn up in this inhospitable place, and it becomes obvious that most events are replicas of ones that have occurred before or that fulfill Ryder's fears about the future. As in Ishiguro's previous books (The Remains of the Day, etc.), almost every turn of the plot concerns a failure of communication and a stifling of emotional responses. Children are profoundly wounded by their self-absorbed and insensitive parents; lovers alienate each other across an emotional abyss. The culture-obsessed inhabitants of the city don't recognize true talent when it appears; they disapprove of creativity when it doesn't fit their expectations. Sustaining the nightmarish atmosphere of this taleæits tone alternately sinister and farcicalæfor more than 500 pages is a tricky business, especially since all the characters express themselves in long, dense monologues. Yet, so adroit is Ishiguro in maintaining suspense that one is as ensnared in the nightmare as is Ryder. The story seems to be a journey through life: its purpose never entirely clear, its events capricious and inexplicable, its destination undoubtedly ``the vast, dark, empty space'' of the soul's extinction. 75,000 first printing; BOMC and QPB selections. (Oct.)
Publishers Weekly, 1996-09-03 A renowned pianist finds himself in a mysterious and dreamlike urban maze. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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