29 July 2010

Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

This book was recently given to me. At the time, the author didn't ring any bells. However, over the summer, I have heard more and more about this author. By the time I got to reading Nocturnes, I was very excited to get a taste of the writing of Kazuo Ishiguro.

The Author:
Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1954, but was raised in the UK from 1960. He received his bachelor's in English and Philosophy from the University of Kent and went on to the University of East Anglia for his Master's in creative writing. Kazuo Ishiguro has received 4 Man Booker nominations for various works and was names one of Britain's top 50 writers since 1945 by The Times. His most recent work is Never Let Me Go (which I have since ordered from the library and am anxiously awaiting!)

Thoughts and Reflections:
For all the hype, I was not disappointed. Nocturnes is a compilation of 5 short stories about music, love and the passing of time. The narration was gentle and unassuming, yet striking. My curiosity grew throughout each story and the whole book and left me thinking about the characters and themes even after finishing.

Americans featured quite strongly in the story. The main characters, for the most part, were either Americans or former Soviet citizens living in Western Europe. Mostly, the American characters were in Europe, far from their nation's borders, and stood out in the setting. Foreignness featured as a consistent theme, but not the loneliness or isolation of being foreign. Rather, elements of foreignness were simply in the stories without much commentary on the issue. Foreigners simply stood out.

Another theme in the stories was people's notions. People act on their notions, whether they are silly or well founded. These stories touched on both. Again, silly notions were discussed gently, without any judgement on the characters, totally unassuming. The mere mentioning of such silliness was enough. The stories opened discussion on people's ambition and how their ambition shaped and changed their lives and the lives of people around them. Physical appearance was discussed, preservation of self, and elitism/celebrity culture. Always, however, this gentle, unassuming narration guided the stories and themes.

The stories were sad, in their own way. The passage of time, the entering and leaving of people from one's life, loss, and so on. There was adequate humour in the stories and this strange wonderment at the live of the characters. I wouldn't say I could relate particularly well to any of the characters, but their stories were certainly interesting to follow.

I would absolutely recommend this book. These stories are certainly a treat, but, be warned, they stick with you for some time after you finish them. I look forward to re-reading them one day and discoving new themes and nuances. Kazuo Ishiguro has proved himself a very talented writer, with an interesting approach, and intriguing themes in my mind. I look forward to reading Never Let Me Go.

Things I Loved about This Book:
1. Yes, I'll say it again, the gentle and unassuming narration

2. The Cellists was my favourite story. You'll have to read it and guess why :)

3. The musicians/protagonists. They were very amicable characters, but each with their own troubles, issues, and problems.

4. The subtle message about the passing of time and how things change.


Mark, Cambridge UK said...

Yes I agree with your perceptive comments and I hope you enjoy "Never Let Me Go" I think that's his greatest work so far~it certainly resonates well after finishing it.
Excellent photos too ^^

Neilson Black said...

Love Nocturnes. Never Let Me Go was the beat also. Nice on Reid