The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
The more you read Ishiguro’s Kafka-esque (and often misunderstood) opus, the more you understand that Ryder — a world-class concert pianist preparing to give a concert in a nameless Central European city — isn’t supposed to get what he deserves. And that’s part of what makes this surreal submersion in his consciousness so deeply brilliant. As Ryder struggles to understand his role as a cultural figure leading up to the performance, he is forced, through a seemingly random and absurd series of connections, to come to terms with a chaotic past and the disintegration of his own family. The fact that he fails to recover much besides his own sanity is inevitable, but his story is told with shifting voices that draw out the deepest and most fundamental elements of human identity. Looking in literary retrospect (The Unconsoled was published in 1995), we can see Ryder as a very special evolutionary link between Josef K. of Kafka’s The Trial and unconsoled characters of the 21st century, like Julius, the societal wanderer at the heart of Teju Cole’s Open City.