March 2: they have literally fallen off the edge of a cliff

It is not often that I don’t finish a book I’m reading, even when I’m not really enjoying it. One book I could not finish a couple of years ago was The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro. I started it because he was a writer I didn’t know what to make of. I had read two or three other novels by him: Never Let me Go I had liked; The Buried Giant I had not much liked; When we were Orphans I had like the first half of. The Unconsoled is a Kafka-like narrative. A famous pianist arrives in a city to perform a concert. At first he does not seem to know he has a wife and child there. He is buffeted this way and that into appointments and meetings which he goes out of his way to accomodate, though we suspect there is some blindness or memory-lapse in his behaviour, as he suddenly lands in a space or relationship he was supposed to know but has to rediscover. I never saw how it resolved. I suspect it never did. I suspect there never was a concert. I say it is like Kafka. Kafka is sudden, brittle and violent. This is distracted, biscuity and melancholy; more english in its tone. It is a more frustrating read, often tiresome. But like Kafka, it deals with other people as shattered, fragmentary figures. You re-meet someone after many years and it is as if literally they have fallen off the edge of a cliff. People, like in real life, are different every time you encounter them. They are misrememberd, have new motives, have a dark side you never noticed. Every time someone walks through a shadow towards you it is a novel confrontation with a reassembled creature. That’s a bit like a better lived life, life if you lived it properly, because that’s how people really are. It’s is only our lazy, approximate minds that makes us think they are consistent, and, following on from that, the state of popular culture that propagates this myth.

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