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The Unconsoled

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  6,640 Ratings  ·  811 Reviews
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 st
Paperback, 535 pages
Published 1995 by Faber and Faber
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Betty Confetti I enjoyed this because in my mind, Ryder is living in an insane asylum and everything that unfolds in terms of time and space in that setting can…moreI enjoyed this because in my mind, Ryder is living in an insane asylum and everything that unfolds in terms of time and space in that setting can become believable. Everything from him happening to show up at just the right place to play the piano during the burial of Brodsky's dog . . . to the weird partial connections/disconnects with Sofia and Boris, Gustav, and even Ryder's parents. Think about it. The scene where the movie is being shown borders on insane. And then the condolences to Brodsky about the death of his dog range from sympathetic to just plain weird. The huge piano recital at the end leads to a breakfast in the wee hours in the morning? Maybe this is done in Europe on a regular basis, but it's more like Milk and Cookies in an institutional setting. I imagine Sofia to be an employee there, and her son is around and occasionally connects with Ryder but most often does not. Hoffman is like the social director of the asylum--trying to keep order in a difficult setting. I don't even believe his son is his son in the book--he could just be another person who is committed there. The wall that Ryder hits trying to get to his performance--too weird to be true. I think it's a real wall keeping him in. And his bird's eye view of the theatre just another sort of hallucination. He's not "there" when some of the story unfolds, and yet he tells us what people say and do. It's surreal in a way that implies another reality--something that Ishiguro must have had in mind to help give the book a sense of containment and manageability. I'd be interested in knowing if anyone else find these thoughts plausible. Without that sort of perspective, it is a long laundry list of twists and turns for someone who can not manage much of anything in his life. Ryder is too inept to be so genius. YOu gotta admit, even the amputation is implausible, except in the mind of someone who has been committed to an insane asylum on a large estate with a mansion of huge dimensions and much on the property to serve as a distraction. (less)
Adam Good question. I am recalling an interview I read with the pianist Mitsuko Uchida about her growing love for Schoenberg, who is still one of those…moreGood question. I am recalling an interview I read with the pianist Mitsuko Uchida about her growing love for Schoenberg, who is still one of those composers mostly only loved by musicians. Of course the time period of this novel is a bit hard to place - my initial thought given the setting is Post War central Europe, so this could very well be someone like Ligeti or Penderecki, or Lutoslawski. From the conversations we see of people in the 'artistic community' in this city, it feels like it must be one of the arch-modernist atonal composers.(less)

Community Reviews

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Mar 24, 2011 William1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 20-ce, uk
Thoughts on my second reading of The Unconsoled.

The novel's form is a veiled commentary on the text's processes and progress. Structurally, I believe it to be Ishiguro’s most daring novel so far. I think it must have been awfully hard to write, but there’s no smell of the lamp about it. The prose is lighter than air. It strikes me as Ishiguro's most Kafkaesque novel, especially in its use of dissociative states. Kafka's "In the Penal Colony" especially springs to mind.

Its narrator, Mr Ryder, a p
May 16, 2007 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having loved all his other novels, I finally got around to reading Ishiguro's The Unconsoled, and boy, was it strange and wonderful. I'd heard a vast array of opinions about this book, from "It is one of my top ten novels of all time" to "I loved it in a tense, uncomfortable way" to "it was an unmitigated train wreck." It's always intriguing to me when a book attracts such a wide variety of reactions, so I was looking forward to The Unconsoled for that reason. It also just so happens that I read ...more
Mar 06, 2011 Beth rated it it was amazing
I felt a tremendous sense of relief that I had finally completed Ishiguros’s The Unconsoled. I allowed myself to remember the experience of reading it, with its unusual memory-impaired narrator and the endless stream of absurdity and satire, and its improbable, dream-like narration. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like it would make the perfect subject for a Goodreads review. I worried a bit about the time it would take to make my feelings clear about the book, but after looking ...more
Having woken up I'll now try to relate some of my impressions, but as you are aware, it is not an easy feat to hold on to the memory of a dream or to recall the details...

It was the extraordinarily long conversation in the lift which alerted me to a time warp. Mr Ryder, possibly not only the world's greatest pianist, but perhaps even the greatest of the century has arrived at an unknown location to give a concert and attend various events. Except, that he has no idea what his schedule is. After
Seth T.
Jul 14, 2008 Seth T. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Unconsoled is almost certainly not a work for everybody. Or even, perhaps, for many. Ishiguro has crafted what is a pretty thoroughly boring, deeply rewarding novel. What at first appears to be a simple series of encounters between a renowned pianist—Mr. Ryder to you—and the inhabitants of a European city turns out to be anything but. Ryder is ostensibly meant to play part in the concert performance that will bring the city back from the realm of the culturally inconsequential and into the f ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Feb 20, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
A long 500plus-page read but an easy one. You don't need to grab the dictionary when you read an Ishiguro but you have to pause, drop the book, every hour or two just to take a breather. An Ishiguro is a joy because it is like a silent but deep pond but if you love to shoot the rapids, it can be boring. What I am saying is that this book is not for everyone and judging from the reviews of my GR friends who have read this already, their ratings tend to go either very/quite high (5 or 4) or very/q ...more
Aug 31, 2016 Pantelis rated it it was amazing
This is the novel I love the most. Although I don't play the piano and I am no concert artist of any kind, I have the impression that this narrative concerns me personally... It feels written for me, almost custom-made... It feels strangely familiar... It deals with many of my issues but not directly, in an oblique way, the way I like it... My hopes and agonies and regrets expressed as understatements, so british and so japanese at the same time... I read it for the first time three years ago an ...more
Jul 19, 2011 Jimmy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who aren't too anal
Recommended to Jimmy by: Jessica
This is undoubtedly Ishiguro’s masterpiece! I’ve read several of his other books, but I always come away from them with a mixture of enthusiasm and reserve. The thing is, Ishiguro is a control freak. His books always seem to me to be so well planned out that there is no sense of discovery for the reader. It is almost like you are being shown a set of corridors that unfold very sure-handedly. It’s artfully done, but that is the problem: as a reader, I feel like he hides certain things from me (pl ...more
Barry Pierce
Jan 18, 2015 Barry Pierce rated it liked it
Probably Ishiguro's more divisive book, I view this as his "Finnegans Wake". An experiment in plot. Yes, most of this novel makes absolutely no sense whatsoever but I actually enjoyed this. Oddly. While I was reading this lucid, dreamlike novel I felt compelled to continue. I don't know. I liked this but I can't exactly put my finger on the reason why. This novel is definitely not for everyone but I'm glad Ishiguro wrote it. It's interesting, let's say that.
Jan 16, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: glaziers
I read quite a bit of this during insomniac chunks in the middle of the night. In spite of the fact that much of what is happening to the narrator, Ryder, if it happened to me in real life would be intensely disturbing - things such as time and distance warping, people making constant and unreasonable demands on me, missing scheduled appointments, not recognizing people I knew well - I found the whole novel soothing, and actually hard to put down. Of the Ishiguro novels I've read, which is now m ...more
Jul 12, 2007 Ellen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
As a person who compulsively makes lists and worries about crossing things off them, I read this book with a continual low-level anxiety. The main character, a pianist traveling in an unnamed European city, continually makes promises and takes on enormous responsibilities and then fails to follow through with them for various absurd and aggravating reasons. The style of the book is unique and unexpectedly engaging, but the experience of immersing yourself in the story is one of frustration. I se ...more
Jul 10, 2007 Boz4pm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has a similar feel to Crime & Punishment or Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas: dark, unsettling and vaguely insane. It is, though, a masterpiece, no more no less.

It’s huge and yet I zipped through the thing in little over a week simply because it is compelling and very readable. The best I can come up with to describe this is it’s like reading the literary equivalent of a painting by Magritte – the ordinary, the everyday made surreal.

The story is told in the first person and through the ey
Oct 09, 2008 Alison rated it really liked it
Since Ishiguro is so concerned with how personal accountability intersects with personal and public delusionality, it only makes sense that he should have written a book in which a man approaches a public concert and keynote–and his family life–with the reckless, responsibility-free logic of dreams (stand up to give a speech and find yourself naked; turn into a pig; go backwards every time you step forwards, and why the hell not? And while you’re at it, neglect your child! Break every promise yo ...more
Oct 05, 2011 Lucy rated it did not like it
I hated this book almost as much as I hated myself for finishing it! If it hadn't been a library book I genuinely would have thrown it away. It infuriated me incessantly. I honestly expected to get the end and see the phrase 'and then he woke up and it was all a dream' but was even more irritated when this didn't even happen, such was the non-sensical dreamesque drivel that had occupied the previous 500 pages. The character's weak will and inability to do what he wants to do was beyond irritatin ...more
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As many reviewers have pointed out, the novel has dream-like, meandering structure. Some readers found this off-putting and I can understand why. There are often lengthy repetitive passages of dialogue that are frankly simply trying and boring. If you decide to assay the novel, well, you have been warned.

The thing is, I don’t have a problem with dream-like or meandering. I enjoyed Kafka on the Shore , The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle , and The Trial each of which have the
Nov 17, 2016 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the ways you can tell that you're dreaming is a lack of continuity -- you turn a corner on a street and you're suddenly on a boat, or you're speaking to a man and he suddenly becomes an Alsatian, or you have lunch with someone who is absolutely, positively your brother but looks nothing at all like him.

This book is like an extended dream sequence.

The main character, a pianist, arrives in a city he has never visited to give a concert he doesn't remember agreeing to, and over the next few
Matthew Snyder
Apr 07, 2008 Matthew Snyder rated it it was amazing
Basically every review I read of this book talks about how it's dream-like or even literally a dream recounted. That's not a very Ishiguro-like device. I feel like these reviewers must have very... normal lives. Like nothing weird ever happens to them, like they never find themselves in situations where they are not in control, or where agency just doesn't seem to be particularly important. This book is as much a page from real life as any memoir.

It's tough, this book. It doesn't come easy. It
Mar 07, 2009 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever had one of those dreams where you are trying to get somewhere but things keep going wrong? You get on the wrong train, get off and go back in the other direction but it takes you somewhere else, then start walking but the streets don’t go where they’re supposed to?

I’ve had those, mostly at times of stress, when I had a lot on my mind and my life felt out of control. This book is one of those dreams, described in detail for 500 pages. It sounds like a nightmare, quite literally. I t
Nov 01, 2012 Kathy rated it did not like it
Oh good lord, this book never ends.

It just goes on and on getting weirder and weirder until you want to use the hefty thing to bash someone over the head with.

The story goes that Ryder arrives in a generic European city with no idea where he is, why he is there or who he is. An interesting premise but one which fails to deliver again and again. The whole thing is written like one of those never-ending dreams where you're constantly going through impossible doors and realising you're late for ap
Sep 08, 2009 Ken rated it really liked it

Ryder arrives in town and steps into a hotel, ready to check in. And that's the last ordinary thing that happens in The Unconsoled. Ishiguro's narrative gradually descends into something other than reality. First, it's subtle: Ryder seems oddly patient as the hotel bellhop gives an extended monologue about himself and the respect (or lack thereof) accorded to his profession. Time seems to move in fits and starts, as characters whose concerns seem only incidental to the central plot (which surely

Jeff Jackson
Feb 18, 2008 Jeff Jackson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kafka fans looking for a page turner
This massive novel orbits the rest of Ishiguro's books like a giant red planet, complete with its own gaseous atmosphere and gravitational pull. It's his longest, most experimental, and uncompromising work and pushes certain aspects of his sensibilty to their extreme.

Where his previous books were equisitely crafted machines that precisely put the reader through preordained emotional paces, 'The Unconsoled' is a brave leap into indeterminacy. This dream novel is a continual unbalancing act. Are
Feb 05, 2013 Beth rated it did not like it
I really wish I could finish this book, but I just can't bear it any more! As a new reader of Ishiguro, I devoured Never Let Me Go, When We Were Orphans, and Artist of the Floating World in a month, but this book is so deeply frustrating, I found myself scanning whole chapters in an attempt to avoid the endless conversations.

While I can understand some people liking this book, the constant stalling drove me crazy, and it felt like Ishiguro was deliberately being obtuse to prove how clever he
Yves Gounin
Oct 02, 2016 Yves Gounin rated it really liked it
J'ai mis trois semaines à venir à bout des 900 pages du roman de Kazuo Ishiguro. Pourquoi un tel masochisme ?
Parce que j'avais aimé la quasi-totalité des livres de cet écrivain à l'élégante écriture, auteur notamment de "Auprès de moi toujours" et "Les vestiges du jour", souvent adapté au cinéma (Carrey Mullingan jouait dans le premier, Anthony Hopkins dans le second) et que j'étais curieux de découvrir celui-ci que je n'avais pas lu.
Parce que la majorité des lecteurs qui se sont attaqués à "L'i
Mar 08, 2011 Sherry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don't read this book if you're in a hurry. Don't read this book if you're easily exasperated because nothing is happening. Don't read this book if you want there to be a plot or action. But do read this book if you like incredible writing or you like interesting descriptions or you want to go on a journey. It's very dreamy. You feel trapped sometimes. You feel like you're in this incredible place where you'll never find your way out. It's sort of Kafkaesque, but not exactly. You don't know exact ...more
Helen (Helena/Nell)
Aug 15, 2012 Helen (Helena/Nell) rated it really liked it
Jury still out on this one. It is WEIRD.

The whole thing reads like a dream. Like a continuous dream in which you worry about certain disconnections in precisely the way you do when you're dreaming yourself. I think Ishiguro writes beautifully, so I'm content to follow whatever he does. It is not a short novel (535 pages) and I'm currently about half way through and I would say I'm enjoying the experience of reading, while having no clear sense of the point of any of the narrative. That shows how
Alison Brown
Nov 25, 2012 Alison Brown rated it it was amazing
Amazing book! Notable for the fact the lead character (and the audience) has no idea who he is, where he is, or what he's doing - at any point through the novel.

In a way it's an anti-detective novel. Although it's evident that Ishiguro has crafted the book carefully and deliberately created the impression of chaos, trying to detect or piece together a sensible narrative of events and characters is completely against the idea of the book, and if you try to read the text in that way, you'll very l
May 02, 2011 Turner rated it it was amazing
Sprawling, unfocused, enigmatic, and absolutely fantastic. This is one of those texts that seems best suited for a reader who doesn't mind getting lost, quite literally, in their book. The narration switches, without warning, from past to present and reality to dreams as the narrator gets as lost as the reader in the magical realism of a world built on memories (as all world are?). There may not be a specific point to the novel, but viewed as a study of an unraveling mind and the unpredictable p ...more
Susan (the other Susan)
In the unlikely event that I'm ever asked to not only name my favorite book but swear to it, this is the one. A stunning, magnificently crafted satire on the cult of personality. But it's so much more than that; if I could describe The Unconsoled and what I discovered about myself while touring the protagonist's nightmarish interior landscape, I'd be the writer I wish I were. Just read it, okay?
Dec 07, 2016 Bet rated it really liked it
This was a long slog, tempered by Ishiguro's unlimited imagination. We follow Ryder, a famous pianist, through dream-scene after dream-scene, sometimes verging on hilarity and sometimes on nightmare, sometimes both. Imagine a one-legged man using an ironing board as a crutch as he conducts an orchestra. At the same time he's in both physical and emotional agony. And that's only one of many stories in this dense, uncomfortable book.

The characters, except for a little boy named Boris, are all hor
This was my first foray into Kazuo Ishiguro. I read this longer than long ago. Am I that same person now? I know I don't "read" the same. The shape of "The Unconsoled" alludes me. Is this due to the passage of time? Kazuo Ishiguro's storyline? Writing style? I forget.

As much as I would love to re-visit every book from back in the day; time, as they say, remains steadfast in it's ticking away. Time, effectively diminishes this possibility, yet I'm happy; as there remains countless unread and (hop
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Madison Mega-Mara...: # 28 The Unconsoled 1 3 Apr 19, 2015 06:05AM  
unreadability 22 145 Aug 18, 2014 08:54AM  
Ishiguro's USP 2 25 Sep 21, 2013 07:14AM  
I Read Therefore ...: August 2013 monthly Boxall's read- The Unconsoled 65 33 Aug 28, 2013 11:57AM  
Frustratingly compelling 2 77 Dec 01, 2008 07:33AM  
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Kazuo Ishiguro (カズオ・イシグロ or 石黒 一雄) is a British novelist of Japanese origin. His family moved to England in 1960. Ishiguro obtained his Bachelor's degree from the University of Kent in 1978 and his Master's from the University of East Anglia's creative writing course in 1980. He became a British citizen in 1982. He now lives in London.

His first novel, A Pale View of Hills, won the 1982 Winifred Ho
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“Silence is just as likely to indicate the most profound ideas forming, the deepest energies being summoned.” 7 likes
“Your wound, your silly little wound! That's your real love, Leo, that wound, the one true love of your life! I know how it will be, even if we tried, even if we managed to build something all over again. The music too, that would be no different. Even if they'd accepted you tonight, even if you became celebrated in this town, you'd destroy it all, you'd destroy everything, pull it all down around you just as you did before. And all because of that wound. Me, the music, we're neither of us anything more to you than mistresses
you seek consolation from. You'll always go back to your one real love. To that wound! And you know what makes me so angry? Leo, are you listening to me? Your wound, it's nothing special, nothing special at all. In this town alone, I know there are many people with far worse. And yet they carry on, every one of them, with far greater courage than you ever did. They go on with their lives. They become something worthwhile. But you, Leo, look at you. Always tending your wound.”
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