- OverDrive Read
The taxi driver seemed embarrassed to find there was no one-not even a clerk behind the reception desk-waiting to welcome me. He wandered across the deserted lobby, perhaps hoping to discover a staff member concealed behind one of the plants or armchairs. Eventually he put my suitcases down beside the elevator doors and, mumbling some excuse, took his leave of me.
The lobby was reasonably spacious, allowing several coffee tables to be spread around it with no sense of crowding. But the ceiling was low and had a definite sag, creating a slightly claustrophobic mood, and despite the sunshine outside the light was gloomy. Only near the reception desk was there a bright streak of sun on the wall, illuminating an area of dark wood panelling and a rack of magazines in German, French and English. I could see also a small silver bell on the reception desk and was about to go over to shake it when a door opened somewhere behind me and a young man in uniform appeared.
'Good afternoon, sir,' he said tiredly and, going behind the reception desk, began the registration procedures. Although he did mumble an apology for his absence, his manner remained for a time distinctly off-hand. As soon as I mentioned my name, however, he gave a start and straightened himself.
'Mr Ryder, I'm so sorry I didn't recognise you. Mr Hoffman, the manager, he was very much wanting to welcome you personally. But just now, unfortunately, he's had to go to an important meeting.'
'That's perfectly all right. I'll look forward to meeting him later on.'
The desk clerk hurried on through the registration forms, all the while muttering about how annoyed the manager would be to have missed my arrival. He twice mentioned how the preparations for 'Thursday night' were putting the latter under unusual pressure, keeping him away from the hotel far more than was usual. I simply nodded, unable to summon the energy to enquire into the precise nature of 'Thursday night'.
'Oh, and Mr Brodsky's been doing splendidly today,' the desk clerk said, brightening. 'Really splendidly. This morning he rehearsed that orchestra for four hours non-stop. And listen to him now! Still hard at it, working things out by himself.'
He indicated the rear of the lobby. Only then did I become aware that a piano was being played somewhere in the building, just audible above the muffled noise of the traffic outside. I raised my head and listened more closely. Someone was playing a single short phrase-it was from the second movement of Mullery's Verticality-over and over in a slow, preoccupied manner.
'Of course, if the manager were here,' the desk clerk was saying, 'he might well have brought Mr Brodsky out to meet you. But I'm not sure . . .' He gave a laugh. 'I'm not sure if I should disturb him. You see, if he's deep in concentration . . .'
'Of course, of course. Another time.'
'If the manager were here . . .' He trailed off and laughed again. Then leaning forward, he said in a low voice: 'Do you know, sir, some guests have had the nerve to complain? About our closing off the drawing room like this each time Mr Brodsky requires the piano? It's amazing how some people think! Two different guests actually complained to Mr Hoffman yesterday You can be sure, they were very quickly put in their place.'
'I'm sure they were. Brodsky, you say.' I thought about the name, but it meant nothing to me. Then I caught the desk clerk watching me with a puzzled look and said quickly: 'Yes, yes. I'll look forward to meeting Mr Brodsky in good time.'
'If only the manager were here, sir.'
'Please don't worry. Now if that's all, I'd very much appreciate . . .'
- Kazuo Ishiguro is the 2017 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His work has been translated into more than 40 languages. Both The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go have sold more than 1 million copies, and both were adapted into highly acclaimed films. Ishiguro's other work includes The Buried Giant, Nocturnes, A Pale View of the Hills, and An Artist of the Floating World.
Starred review from October 2, 1995
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.
- The New Yorker "A work of great interest and originality.... Ishiguro has mapped out an aesthetic territory that is all his own...frankly fantastic [and] fiercer and funnier than before."
出版社Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group