Saturday, May 28, 2011

Kazuo Ishiguro’s


Definition. Music. A romantic composition intended to embody sentiments appropriate to the evening or night; a pensive melody. A painting of a night scene. (from the French which meant nocturnal, from Latin nocturnus).

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall is a collection of five short stories by Kazuo Ishiguro, and was conceived as a whole, almost as a piece of music in five movements, taking the format of a cycle, beginning and ending in Venice.


  • Crooner. Is set in Venice and is told by a Polish guitarist playing with a cafe orchestra. One day whilst playing he sees this old time American singer, who was adored by his mother back in the eastern block. The singer co-opts him into accompanying him from a gondola, as he serenades his younger wife. This is a beautiful tale of commodity and relationship.


  • Come Rain or Come Shine.This is a tale about an English foreign language teacher who is invited to the home of a couple he was friends with at university. However, there is an ulterior motive, as there are problems with the relationship, and his role is to attempt to patch up his friends marriage by being seen as inept in comparison to the high achieving superiority of the husband, his friend. This tale skirts the strange, sad and comic ending up on a lovely note.

  • Malvern hills. In this story a young guitarist, after an abysmal lack of success in London, retreats back to his old stomping ground, and a spare bed at his sisters, working in her countryside cafe to pay for his keep. Whilst working in the cafe, he meets a Swiss couple, who are touring the hills after being inspired by the music of Elgar. The initial encounter doesn’t go to well, but he meets again them later, and is left reflecting on his own life.


  • Nocturnes. A jazz saxophonist, whose career is floundering (possibly because of his looks), is convinced by his ex and his manager to undergo plastic surgery. Whilst in recovery at some private hotel, he meets what he describes as some vacuous female celebrity (the young wife from the first story). Both, with heads encased in bandages, stalk the corridors  of the hotel after dark – this story manages to be both absurd and serious, and features a hilarious moment involving the saxophonist, a turkey and an award statuette.


  • Cellists. A young Hungarian cellist is charmed, and I’m using the word in its old sense*, by a fellow cellist, who is apparently a virtuoso American cellist, she offers to tutor him, to bring out the qualities she has perceived in him. He later finds out she cannot play the cello, but is so convinced of her own genius that she has never found a teacher equal to it. So to make sure it’s not damaged she has chosen never to realise it, to keep it safe. For her music represents some ideal that she would rather keep wrapped, than risk tarnishing it. Ultimately neither end up fulfilled, caught up in their everyday world, and the life hinted at in the music.



This is a really beautiful collection of stories, that will haunt you, that will leave you in a mood of quite contemplation, there are funny moments, really funny moments, but the overall feel is of some nebulous ache. These are mood pieces, an instant caught in amber, romantic and full of melancholy, and really beautiful.


  Relating it back to music they reminded me of;


Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

"Dance Me To The End Of Love"

Leonard Cohen.

Kazuo Ishiguro

Contemporary Writers


Nocturne in black & Gold, Whistler.

*Affected or protected by, bewitched.


Anonymous said...

I've been thinking of reading this book. I'm not great with stories, but I loved Never Let Me Go, The Remains of the Day and... (another one).

Thanks for reminding me!

Bellezza said...

I bought this when it first came out, and I still haven't read it. I will read it this summer!

I love "Dance Me To The End of Love". What a great song, both in words and in music.

Anonymous said...

I loved the way he managed to inter connect ,the theme through the book ,I ve read a book just with a similar idea ,I like the crooner story in venice best but they were all good ,and brouught me back to him as I hated the unconsoled by him ,all the best stu

gina said...

So I'm commenting without actually having read the post since I still have not read the collection yet. But I have it bookmarked for when I have read it. Cheerio.

Rise said...

A favorite writer. I left When We Were Orphans somewhere in the middle and your musical post reminds me to get back to it. The Unconsoled is my favorite *eyes Stu's comment* which is, come to think of it, also centered around music.

Anonymous said...

I've been meaning to read some Ishiguro for a long time. I hear nothing but good things about him. This concept interests me much more than "Remains of the Day" so maybe I'll start with this one.

Mel u said...

I was glad to see you are the first participant in JL5

Sandra said...

You've convinced me this is a must-read. I have enjoyed Remains, Orphans, and Never Let Me Go. Glad to see someone else who loves the Japanese Lit Challenge as much as I do. I've just posted and will probably read Oe's latest, The Changeling first. I look forward to your thoughts on what you read. Glad I found your blog, I like it.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Judith it is a beautiful collection of tales.

Ciao Bellezza,nearly saved this for JLC5, and it's a lovely song isn't it.

Hi Stu, The crooner is a clever thoughtful tale that I also loved.not read unconsoled, but have when we were orphans & The remains of the day in front of me, thanks to a village fete.

HI Gina, will wait to hear your opinion on this.

Hello Rise, not read unconsoled, but its similar theme does appeal & have When we were orphans on my TBR.

Hi Pete, this is a good place to start as it is a series of stories with a central theme.

Hi Mel, yes have been waiting for this JLC5, as last years was my first ever challenge and will be checking out your resource list, at the moment reading The secret history of the lord of Musashi.

Welcome Sandra, always happy to meet another book-fiend and JLC5 fan, not read that Oe, but have read The silent Cry & Somersault.

Em said...

I still have to write my review of A Pale View of Hills. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed by its style at times. However, I am willing to read more as I enjoy some aspects of it and A Pale View was his first work...

Laurie said...

Re: Leonard Cohen. I just learned that this week he - oh so deservedly - won Spain's "Prince of Asturias" award for a 'body of work deemed to be of "immutable merit"'. Bravo, Mr. Cohen.
And thank you, PL, for a offering us a blog of distinction.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Em, will check it out to find out the whys & wherefores of your likes & dislikes.

Hello Laurie, yes I heard and about time to,he seems to be having a bit of a resurgence of interest in him & his works. I choose the song because I could hear it in my head over some of the tales.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

Nebulous ache. I think that is the perfect way to describe how I felt at the end of Remains of the Day (one of my favorites). I haven't read any of Ishiguro's short stories but I have loved the fiction I've read. Will be keeping my eye out!