15 10 2009

This is the latest offering by the renowned author Kazuo Ishiguro. ‘Nocturnes’ is a collection of five interrelated short stories with music as the main theme. In fact, this is the author’s first attempt at short stories. His novels are widely acknowledged as among the best contemporary literature. When I first read his Booker winning ‘Remains of the day two years ago, I was spellbound. Reading it was sheer pleasure. No other has book has invoked in me a reaction with greater intensity than this one.  It has ever since been the most favorite book of mine and I fell in love with Kazuo’s writing. Later, I tried his Never Let Me Go and was equally impressed. But I must say that ‘Nocturnes’ couldn’t quite replicate my earlier experiences with Kazuo Ishiguro. 

Every time I read short stories, I wonder at their nature – most seem to reflect a slice of a character’s nature or life or sometimes a tiny little facet of a culture or society or time period. The most striking feature, of course is the way the stories end – most leave questions unanswered, leaving the readers contemplating and guessing. That way, those stories and their characters haunt the reader long after finishing reading them. I always feel that reading short stories is a kind of psychological and emotional exercise. And I love the experience. I especially like the ones by Somerset Maugham, O. Henry, Scott G. Fitzgerald and the likes. But of course, there are all kinds of short stories – simple and straight-forward, subjects ranging from simple observations to the complexities of life or nature – and I enjoy them all. ‘Nocturnes’ clearly belongs to the former category.

In ‘Nocturnes’,  I was especially intrigued by the second story, ‘Come rain or Come Shine’, in which a man thinks that the realization by his wife of the relative unsuccessfulness or blandness of a mutual friend’s life would lower her expectations of him and make her appreciate him for what he is. In another story, an ugly uprising saxophonist doesn’t feel good about the need to get a plastic surgery in order to trudge to the top. In fact, all the stories touch on the disturbing nature of the deep and sometimes unfathomable feelings and attitudes – dissatisfaction, regret, hope, struggle for success, uprightness, selfishness, etc. 

Everything considered, ‘Nocturnes’ is definitely a good read.



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