Socialist Worker

Nocturnes - Kazuo Ishiguro

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2154

Cover of Nocturnes

Cover of Nocturnes

These five short stories focus on unfulfilled dreams, compromises, frustrations and regrets – through the prisms of relationships and music.

This may sound like a depressing collection but it isn’t.

True, there is sadness.

But there are also moments of hilarity as people cook-up crazy schemes they hope will fix their lives.

All the stories deal with relationships of one form or another.

Romantic relationships are fraught – the places where the unhappiness in people’s lives come to a head – but they are not negatively one-sided.

A couple of stories in particular are caught up with relationships gone sour for apparently superficial reasons – one partner has been insufficiently “successful” in the eyes of the other.

It is the men who are feeling inadequacy and failure, feelings they attribute to the judgement of their female partners.

Ishiguro uses seemingly minor and mundane disputes between people to convey deeper, unresolved problems.

These are often only hinted at or partially revealed, leaving the reader free to speculate about what came before.

He manages to write stories where, on the surface, nothing much seems to happen, but every sentence is loaded with meaning.

Ishiguro creates characters that the reader will care about. Even minor characters who appear just a handful of times become immediately real.

The stories give snapshots of life that end as easily as they begin, unresolved and with questions hanging in the air.

Ishiguro has an understated and subtle way of writing that hints at complexities.

I think this is why, despite the slow pace and lack of “events”, Nocturnes is worth reading.

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall
by Kazuo Ishiguro
£14.99 Published by Faber and Faber

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Article information

Tue 2 Jun 2009, 18:21 BST
Issue No. 2154
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