As stylistically distinctive as his acclaimed The Remains of the Day (LJ 10/1/89), Ishiguro's newest work offers a different kind of protagonist. While Remains's butler was at odds with himself (without knowing it), prominent concert pianist Ryder is at odds with his surroundings. Ryder arrives in an unidentified European city at a bit of a loss. Everyone he meets seems to assume that he knows more than he knows, that he is well acquainted with the city and its obscure cultural crisis. A young woman he kindly consents to advise seems to have been an old lover and her son quite possibly his own; he vaguely recalls past conversations. The world he has entered is a surreal, Alice-in-Wonderland place where a door in a cafe can lead back to a hotel miles away. The result is at once dreamy, disorienting, and absolutely compelling; Ishiguro's paragraphs, though Proust-like, are completely lucid and quite addictive to read. Some readers may find that the whole concept grinds too much against logic, but the pleasure here is that Ishiguro doesn't do anything so ordinary as trying to resolve events neatly, instead taking them at face value. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/95.]-Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''
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 self-knowledge to create a devastating deadpan irony. A celebrated concert pianist identified only as Mr Ryder arrives at an unnamed European (seemingly Germanic) city not only to give a concert but also, it seems, to address the townspeople and help them surmount a communal sense of crisis that stems from the city's inability to nurture a musical artist of outstanding creative talent. Strangely, the economic, social and psychic health of the community depends on its regaining its self-image in the wake of a dreadful past mistake, when the city fathers lionized a musician with the ``wrong'' artistic values. Ryder intuits this situation gradually, for he is curiously disoriented; he can't really remember what he's supposed to be doing there. In fact, through Ryder's confused perceptions, the reader is immediately plunged into a surrealistic landscape that has the eerie unpredictability, claustrophobic atmosphere and strange time sequences of a dream. Everyone in this town presents a false image to the world. Each person Ryder meets addresses him with fawning obsequiousness and asks him for a small favor which turns out to be an egregious intrusion into his time. Yet Ryder, infused with an inflated sense of mission, feels a need to console them: ``People need me. I arrive in a place and find terrible problems, and people are so grateful I've come.'' Although he initially thinks he's a stranger in the city, it slowly becomes obvious that he's been here before. In fact, he has been the lover of a woman called Sophie whose little boy, Boris, in many ways replays the pivotal events of Ryder's own life. With dream logic, many of Ryder's childhood friends from England turn up in this inhospitable place, and it becomes obvious that most events are replicas of ones that have occurred before or that fulfill Ryder's fears about the future. As in Ishiguro's previous books (The Remains of the Day, etc.), almost every turn of the plot concerns a failure of communication and a stifling of emotional responses. Children are profoundly wounded by their self-absorbed and insensitive parents; lovers alienate each other across an emotional abyss. The culture-obsessed inhabitants of the city don't recognize true talent when it appears; they disapprove of creativity when it doesn't fit their expectations. Sustaining the nightmarish atmosphere of this tale‘its tone alternately sinister and farcical‘for more than 500 pages is a tricky business, especially since all the characters express themselves in long, dense monologues. Yet, so adroit is Ishiguro in maintaining suspense that one is as ensnared in the nightmare as is Ryder. The story seems to be a journey through life: its purpose never entirely clear, its events capricious and inexplicable, its destination undoubtedly ``the vast, dark, empty space'' of the soul's extinction. 75,000 first printing; BOMC and QPB selections. (Oct.)