Having only previously read The Buried Giant I think Kazuo and I got off on the wrong foot. However, The Unconsoled was everything that The Buried Giant was missing and for this his scope and mastery of genres deserves praise. The exciting, tense and frustrating journey follows a renowned pianist in an unknown European city as he tries to make sense of the dreamscape around him.
In short, he can’t and neither will you.
Time and space is distorted completely: he travels for hours to find himself feet away from where he has set out, yet sometimes hours pass in the blink of an eye. He is privy to conversations that have never been spoken aloud and can go unrecognised by his closest friends. There is no constant throughout the novel, but this confusion is the fun of it. Don’t try and make sense of it just play along.
I’ll admit that all while reading, I assumed that there would be some event at the end that would tie all my questions up neatly. The unresolved (or unconsoled) ending suited the book perfectly, making any reading of it highly personal. I think the true success of a book lies in how often you think of it after reading it, and I just can’t stop wondering about all the possible interpretations.
The one that is most convincing for me is that his interactions present how he feels he is perceived by others. A sort of paranoia if you will. Hearing people speak about him as though he is not present, going unrecognised or being unable to make himself noticed could be some of his worst fears.
Ishiguro is a master to be able to underpin moments of hilarity by the sinister perception that something just isn’t right. It amounts to a book that unsettled and touched me in equal measures. I have asked close friends to read this book so that I can hear their take on it. Kazuo, you have succeeded on numerous fronts, chapeau!