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The Unconsoled

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  11,129 ratings  ·  1,465 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 beco…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)

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Average rating 3.57  · 
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Jim Fonseca
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author is Japanese-born but British enough through education and upbringing to have written The Remains of the Day. This is a long novel (more than 500 pages) that is like a Kafka dream, or better, nightmare.

An eminent pianist wanders in a dream-like state through an unnamed central European city. While the whole city awaits his performance, he misses appointments and neglects friends and family while he navigates through an unreal world of his own making.


It’s not a “pleasant” book but I fo
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20-ce, uk, fiction
Thoughts on my second reading of The Unconsoled.

The novel's form is, I believe, a veiled commentary on the text's processes and progress. Structurally, it may be Ishiguro’s most daring novel so far. It must have been awfully hard to write; 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 pianist of international reputation, checks into
May 16, 2007 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 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
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Unconsoled, Kazuo Ishiguro

The Unconsoled is a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, first published in 1995.

The novel takes place over a period of three days. It is about Ryder, a famous pianist who arrives in a central European city to perform a concert.

He is entangled in a web of appointments and promises which he cannot seem to remember, struggling to fulfill his commitments before Thursday night's performance, frustrated with his inability to take control.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و هفتم ماه جول
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
One very hefty tome about musical geniuses & unsure artists (plus the people who love them).

This is one strange, uber-Surreal in that Czech sort of way (yup, the birthplace of surrealism)--twisty streets, opaque individuals... resplendent crystals. Mr. Ishiguro strayed from his quiet solemnity to include literary examples of the picaresque.

But it does not reach the same heights of "Remains of the Day," "A Pale Vies of Hills" or "Never Let Me Go." It is not as perfect a novel as any one in his s
Manuel Antão
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1995
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Ones-self: "The Unconsoled" by Kazuo Ishiguro

(Original Review, 1995-12-12)

I'm pretty respectful of other people's opinions and durable literary reputations. Reading Ulysses was bliss for me, but I have no harsh words for people who don’t like it. It is obviously something that has engaged reader’s minds, hearts, and souls, and perhaps more importantly influenced and engaged writers across generations, and I wish I could figure out why
Seth T.
Jul 14, 2008 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
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tara by: Pantelis Kontogiannis
Shelves: 1001-list
4.5 stars.

The Unconsoled is at once humorous, touching, uncanny, and intricately, beautifully absurd. My words are failing me at present; the best I can do to describe this paralyzing, captivating reading experience is to say that my inability to wrench my eyes from the page, even when my mind was desperately claustrophobic and screaming for air, felt remarkably similar to the exquisitely unbearable compulsion which gripped the narrator in his childhood:
“My ‘training sessions’ had come about
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1990-2010, reviewed
The Unconsoled is an extraordinary work. It is close in themes and texture to Ishiguro’s equally extraordinary The Buried Giant, even though they were published at twenty years’ distance from one another, The Unconsoled in 1995, The Buried Giant in 2015. There are similarities in reception, as well. Both novels sparked wildly disparate responses in their readers, with some regarding them as masterpieces, others as unredeemed turkeys. James Wood’s original review of The Unconsoled in The Guardian ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Feb 20, 2010 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
Jan 16, 2009 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
Feb 02, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
From the writer of giants like Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day comes something completely different. Ryder is an accomplished and famous musician who has being invited/hired to appear at a special event that is set to rejuvenate an artistically imploding city in an unnamed West Central European city. We then have 500+ pages of missed opportunities in business, life and love and by multiple characters!

I would even go further and say that the book itself could be seen (intentionally?) a
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A strange, surreal, dream-like work, this book--to me--is Ishiguro's most daring and ambitious, and the one I'm tempted to re-read above all his others, if only to plumb the depths I might have missed the first time. ...more
Jul 12, 2007 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 19, 2011 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
Katie Lumsden
Dec 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a bizarre, dream-like, meandering and somewhat bewildering book – and I think I rather loved it.
Barry Pierce
Jan 18, 2015 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. ...more
Oct 05, 2011 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
Why, you ask, did I give three stars (meaning "I liked it") to a book I DNF? Because I see what Ishiguro is doing here, and he does it masterfully. Reading The Unconsoled is like reliving some sort of dream, with all the unexplainable rifts in memory and sudden recollections, the impossible-in-real-life shortcuts, and the full knowledge of the context of a situation even though that situation is unfolding in-media-res. But I can only take so much of this. I quite like vagaries in my fiction (I'm ...more
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, 5-stars
Literary critic James Wood claimed The Unconsoled “invented its own category of badness”. On the other hand, Anita Brookner said it is “almost certainly a masterpiece”, a thought echoed by The Times review quoted on the front of the edition I read: “A masterpiece…It is above all a book devoted to the human heart.”

Masterpiece or disaster? You have to read it for yourself to decide, but I am on the masterpiece side of the argument.

One thing is sure: this is a novel unlike other novels. I’ve read a
Jul 10, 2007 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 eyes o
29th book of the year.

I've been avoiding this one for a while as Ishiguro's books are usually slow, not bad, but slow reading and this is huge compared to his other works; it's 535 pages, my edition, anyway.

I came up with some similes whilst I was reading, to capture what reading this book is like. I'm going to list them here.

- Like getting your zip stuck half way up your coat.
- Like finally getting comfortable and then realising you need the toilet/the remote.
- Like trying to untangle head
Matthew Snyder
Apr 07, 2008 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
Oct 09, 2008 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
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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 ha
Nov 01, 2012 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
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Silence is just as likely to indicate the most profound ideas forming, the deepest energies being summoned.”

“It's nonsense to believe people go on loving each other regardless of what happens.”

“I have this feeling, that all it will take will be one moment, even a tiny moment, provided it’s the correct one. Like a cord suddenly snapping and a thick curtain dropping to the floor to reveal a whole new world, a world full of sunlight and warmth.”
Nov 17, 2016 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
This has to be the most frustrating book I’ve encountered in a long time, but somehow I couldn’t stop reading it…
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Sir Kazuo Ishiguro (カズオ・イシグロ or 石黒 一雄), OBE, FRSA, FRSL is a British novelist of Japanese origin and Nobel Laureate in Literature (2017). 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.


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“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.”
“Silence is just as likely to indicate the most profound ideas forming, the deepest energies being summoned.” 12 likes
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