The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro

Why did I do a Masters degree?  WHY?!  Yes, work is getting to me a bit already and it’s still only October.  I would be blogging every day if I reviewed all the course books I am reading at the moment but I don’t want to turn this blog into A Little Blog of Political Economy and European Foreign Policy Books and Absolutely Nothing Else.  That would be depressing and very very boring.

I think the last time it took me this long to finish a book was when I read ‘The Corrections’ by Jonathan Franzen.  However, that was because I found it a slog to get through not because I was particularly busy at the time.  During the holidays, I might have been able to read ‘The Unconsoled’ in about three days.  Instead, during term time, it has taken more like two and a half weeks.  For me, that’s an epically long time to spend on one book.  But with ‘The Unconsoled’, I think it was worth reading slowly.  ‘The Unconsoled’ is a remarkable book.  I think both those who enjoyed it or didn’t enjoy it would at least agree with that.  It’s certainly not easy to describe exactly what it’s about because there are so many ambiguous aspects relating to time, space and memory.  Essentially, ‘The Unconsoled’ is about a pianist called Ryder who arrives in a central European city to give a concert, encounters an array of characters and seems to have lost his memory.  I don’t know how else to explain this but I felt like the story was taking place in a bubble (or maybe this is confirmation that a masters degree has already sent me truly mad four weeks in).  It’s a supremely odd book.  It definitely made my head spin a bit with all the underlying themes and mind-bending metaphors.  It probably didn’t help that some of the paragraphs were about four pages long and were pretty tiring to read.

Personally, I think that there is a fine line between surrealism that works (for example, ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ and ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’) and surrealism that is just plain weird and not enjoyable at all (‘Everything is Illuminated’ springs to mind here).  ‘The Unconsoled’ just about falls into the category of surrealism that works but only because I love Kazuo Ishiguro’s elegant writing.  Everything about it – the pace, the tone, the language – is flawless.  I didn’t hate this book but I can very easily see why some people might not like it especially if they were expecting something more like ‘The Remains of the Day’ or even ‘Never Let Me Go’.  ‘The Unconsoled’ is a sprawling, baffling, non-linear blob of a book.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. I read this ages ago and I feel I’d enjoy it more now than I did at the time – however I did like it well enough. Ishiguro is a simply beautiful author and I want to read more of his works.

    One day I must read this again, it was weird but very alluring – always wanting to read on.

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  2. PM

    this reminds me of kafka on the shore. i wonder if this is a thing predominant with japanese writers.

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  3. I’d be interested in a few blog entries about European Foreign Policy. 🙂

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  4. Your post has inspired me to give the book a try.

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  5. Thanks for the warning. I too like this author, but will stay away from this book. Long paragraphs? Who does he think he is? Faulkner? : )

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  7. ifnotread

    Thanks for your thoughts. I’m reading this one for sure. I just love the idea that paragraphs go on for pages! It’s a bit like a train wreck – can’t look but can’t look away…

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  9. Oh that’s dissapointing, I was thinking about reading this but I may not now. Also I remember my early days of Masters, good luck! 😀

    -1001 nights of books

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  11. I read this book in its entirety only because I was on an incredibly long plane ride with nothing else to do. I finished it and had absolutely no idea what it was about. One of those books that speaks a language I do not, kind of like Micheal Ondatje. I’m glad you enjoyed it at least. What do you think its about, really?

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