With this stunning new novel, cast in the form of a postmodern nightmare, Ishiguro tells a powerful story in which he once again exploits a narrator’s utter lack of. The questions, discussion topics, author biography, and bibliography that follow are meant to enhance your group’s reading of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled . From the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and author of the Booker Prize– winning novel The Remains of the Day, here is a novel that is at.

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The Unconsoled is a difficult, perplexing and uniquely challenging book. There are also moments of exquisite comedy. Then again, this position is also potentially interesting; partly because this is a book with such a high dropout rate that I now know as much as some readers ever will, and partly because at this stage I have so many questions in common with Ryder.

I currently have the same problem as the narrator while he moves through the story.

But this is a confusion that makes me feel all the more curious and empathetic, and all the more tempted to speculate. Over to John Self:. One thing I can say about stress, however, is how effectively the reader also experiences it.

Meanwhile, if Ryder is baffled by the world around him in the novel, so are we.

The Unconsoled

If he is troubled that he keeps getting distracted and is never able to bring anything to the conclusion he intends, so are we. Similarly, if Ryder is forever feeling that moments of respite and reflection are snatched away from him, so are we. On the subject of these questions, ishoguro, it is astonishingly frustrating to have so many apparent clues set in front of us — and then snatched away.


There is a tantalising suggestion on page one that the porter does not recognise Ryder — that the whole confusion of the book might have arisen from a case of mistaken identity. Like I say – stressful. I can understand why people might be irritated to feel that an author is toying with them. Sequences which allow Ryder to — say — walk into one place miles away from his hotel, through a room, out the back and into his hotel again.

Reading group contributor Lisa Summers summed this up nicely:. The lack of guiding logic already mentioned seems to me to follow a particularly dreamlike pattern. Also, throughout the book so far, things blur in and out of focus, faces emerge from nowhere and recede back into the mist, time is out of joint, things that seem pressingly urgent can be immediately forgotten … So yes, it feels like reading a dream.

Do the rooms in the hotel represent the ishigyro of his mind? Are the conversations he has with a small sweet boy called Boris something to do with a family he has lost in the real world? Are his attempts to remember phone conversations memories within memories?

Similarly, I suppose you could see, for instance, a character called Brodsky, who is an alcoholic conductor, as an older version of Ryder who has gone to seed and squandered his talent. Little boy lost Boris might conceivably be the little boy lost in all of us … And yet, at the moment, this idea leaves me more confused than ever before.

January’s Reading group: The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro | Books | The Guardian

Can all these people represent Ryder? In which case why go to so much trouble introducing them and giving them apparently distinct personalities?


How, for instance, can a woman he meets inspecting tickets on a tram, who turns out to have been a childhood friend and is annoyed that he failed to show up for a dinner, also be Ryder?

What I am interested in is whether I will feel differently by the time I reach the end.

Will it start making sense? Will there be any answers at all? Will it even be worth trying to ask questions about the book as a unified whole rather than just taking each page at face value, one at a time?

The Butler didn’t do it, again: Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled

Over to John Self: Reading group contributor Lisa Summers summed this up nicely: I recommended it to everyone I knew who read literary fiction, but they all hated it and never got past the first couple of chapters. A working title was Piano Dreams … Ishiguro says that he wanted to explore how memory works in a way similar to dream. Is the narrative a dream? Does this help comprehension of what is undoubtedly a somewhat knotty book?

Is comprehension in the usual narrative sense even important? Topics Kazuo Ishiguro Reading group.

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Last modified: July 23, 2020