Reading “The Unconsoled” by Kazuo Ishiguro, prompted by Alice’s comments about Ian McEwan on the Dawkins “Selfish Gene 30 Years On” thread.

Strange book as the TLS review commented. Some weird situations. First person narrator following two third parties moving out of the first person view, and continuing the first person narrative. Shouting to be heard above the noise in a library (!) Long conversations in a cinema (!), watching 2001, but with Clint Eastwood in the Dave Bowman role. Anonymous mid-European location, with disproportionate number of old school friends from back in the UK ? Confusion compounded by long streams of digression (?) by characters unloading their problems, long preludes to scenes about to happen, with little narrative certainty that they actually do, mixed with historical flashbacks; characters moving along streets between locations in the one city adds to the Joycean feel.

The plot line is a “Clockwise” out-of-control time-pressure not-quite-farce, a concert pianist arriving in a foreign city for a recital, but being confounded by events – real and imagined. The general idea being what really matters in all the confusion? The underlying story is about personal relationships and communication as tacit (mis)-understanding – man who spends long periods away from wife and growing child, and the relationship with that child. Older broken couple(s) who’s “understanding” can allow serious rows and breakdowns within the ongoing loving continuity.

Two thirds through – mainly in two long sittings (one of those, another west-bound transatlantic flight). Enthralling, though not yet mind-blowing. Mind-bending certainly – no clues noticed yet as to the eventual outcomes, or the turn of events at the much heralded climax yet to materialise.

4 thoughts on “Unconsoled”

  1. “Enthralling, though not mind-blowing. Mind-bending certainly”

    Maybe that is all an author can hope for from such an intelligent reader as yourself.

    “much heralded climax yet to materialise”

    Again, can we ever hope for the heralded climax? we have our own life to live and well after the book is closed….life goes on. It ain’t the movies.

    I’m so honored that you took my advice and actually read this book.

    Does anything remind you of the dream world?

    “watching 2001, but with Clint Eastwood in the Dave Bowman role”

    I’d love to know the significance of that. But it can certainly be attributed to the dream world, as can most of everything else.

    “no clues noticed yet as to the eventual outcomes”

    The most important question…is it unsubtle????

  2. “Strange book as the TLS review commented”

    what means “TLS”.

    also another thought…
    prompted by what I know about another novel by this author, “the remains of the day”, a book about an English manor house maintained before WW II. It is my intuition (I have not read the book, but saw the movie) that the author wanted to explore the state of affairs in such a house prior to the war. he, being a japanese immigrant to England after the war would have great curiosity about what had gone on. But knowing this author I would say that he probably didn’t have an agenda. He merely wanted to explore the personalities.

    I think in some cases this is what literature is about. I think the writing is the exploration so as readers we go on a journey with the author.

  3. Hi Alice,

    TLS is the “(UK) Times Literary Supplement”

    I think you’re right – the writer can explore and lay bare without having an overtly specific agenda the reader is meant to follow – the reader can bring their own agenda. (In some ways that was what was “wrong” with the McEwan plot – a bit too smug and neatly packaged for my taste. Ishiguro is more “subtle” in that respect – for me obviously – more confusing – like real life itself.)

    When you say “the” dream world – I didn’t see it that way explicitly – but clearly the mix of (mis-)foreseen, (mis-)remembered, (mis-)perceived events jumbled together give the whole thing the surreal dream-like atmosphere. Not always clear which (if any) is meant to be reality. That works well, but naturally makes following the story harder. (As I said, quite Joycean.)

    The “DIY, decorating and tiling” theme is very strange – the book bought from the ice-cream vendor in the cinema (weird enough) – presumably part of some paranoia being inflicted on the child by his mixed-up family. Just guessing.

    PS my younger son was / is finishing fixing up a shower fitting in our bathroom back home whilst I’m over here in Alabam – can I count that as a spooky coincidence 🙂

    Interesting enough book for me to want to read more by the author. The film “Remains of the Day” didn’t make a big impression – maybe it will if I watch again from a position of more prior knowledge.

  4. “quite Joycean”

    I’ve read “portrait of a young artist” which was very easy to follow and then attempted “Ulyssess” I got lost and bored (probably because I was lost). I want to try to read it again with what you have said in mind. That makes sense. I have heard there are a lot of allusions to other literature, such as the classics, so I don’t know if I possess the background to get it all.

    As far as the tile bit and your son, perhaps what we are talking about is what gladwell talks about in “blink” (haven’t read it, just heard about it) There are millions of images which we see every day, but we select, because of who we are, what to notice.

    “island” is Ishiguro’s latest. I saw the movie because I knew it was based on his work and wasn’t captivated, but i still want to give the book a chance because as we all know movies seldom do justice. it’s about cloning.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.