Anita Brookner’s assessment that THE UNCONSOLED is “almost certainly a masterpiece” is the proper assessment for the surprisingly long, astonishingly accomplished fourth novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, author of the celebrated THE REMAINS OF THE DAY (1989) and two excellent earlier novels. Set in an unnamed provincial city in central Europe in the 1990’s, THE UNCONSOLED is the story of Ryder, a classical pianist who has been invited to the city to give a concert. Ryder arrives, only to find himself perpetually puzzled by an inability to remember why exactly he is there or where he is supposed to be next at any given moment, and under siege from the maddeningly solicitous and demanding local citizens.
THE UNCONSOLED is about the elusiveness of identity and the treachery of memory, regret and the hope of redemption. Though its atmosphere is dreamlike, it actually is hyper-realistic, portraying with enigmatic precision of a very high order “real” life as each of us actually experiences it. Like all truly important literature, it raises more questions than it answers: Who is the protagonist? Where did he come from? Why is he here? Where is he going next? Is individual identity— whatever that is—fundamental, or is our inevitable involvement with every other fellow human the bedrock of who we “really” are?
With respect to its author’s career, the question THE UNCONSOLED raises is the same as that posed earlier by THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, raised to a much higher power: Where can he go next? What is left for him to accomplish? What is certain is that with his fourth novel, Ishiguro has both firmly established himself as an important novelist and considerably raised expectations in his admirers and the stakes for himself. He probably will be up to the challenge.
Sources for Further Study
London Review of Books. XVII, June 8, 1995, p. 30.
The Nation. CCLXI, November 6, 1995, p. 546.
The New Republic. CCXIII, November 6, 1995, p. 42.
New Statesman and Society . VIII, May 12, 1995, p. 39.
The New York Times Book Review. C, October 15, 1995, p. 7.
The New Yorker. LXXI, October 23, 1995, p. 90.
Newsweek. CXXVI, October 2, 1995, p. 92.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLII, September 18, 1995, p. 105.
Time. CXLVI, October 2, 1995, p. 82.
The Times Literary Supplement. April 28, 1995, p. 22.