Kazuo Ishiguro is a name that has gained quite a lot of favor in the literary world recently owing to his Booker Prize winner – Never Let me Go. So it is of no surprise that when I spotted a hardcopy with a pretty cover and a tagline ‘Five Stories of Music and Nightfall’ authored by Kazuo Ishiguro, I instinctively picked it up.
Nocturnes is a collection of five short stories, spinning around music in Europe, nostalgically narrated and abruptly ended. I vaguely remember reading An Artist of the Floating World by Ishiguro, but these stories have a similar charm to them – a style that inexplicably weaves the reader into the narrator’s world.
A common thread across these stories is a love or pursuit of music and fame or the desire for recognition Then there are the troubled couples, lovers whom life has slowly clinched apart and those who are still inching closer and finding each other. But they only form a part of the story, a background tune. Rather, it’s the fleeting moments shared between strangers connected through music that form the chorus, with the impending goodbye as the crescendo.
In some ways, these stories are about travelling and meeting new people – who you never really know except in the few hours that they decide to spend with you. It’s about people who you wish you could have known better or people that bring out a different side to you – sometimes they are inviting and mysterious like a tune you can’t get out of your head, and then, as suddenly as they appeared, they disappear and become another of those strangers you might catch a glimpse of from afar.
Nocturnes builds up a rhythm of its own. It has the kind of stories you would exchange with unfamiliar faces across a campfire, a bit to impress but really to avoid forgetting them yourself. These are stories that don’t necessarily lead to a well-formed ending but have still somehow stayed with the narrator all along – eternal mysteries wrapped around quirks in a stranger’s behavior.
The book is a light read that draws you in and shows you the colorful, vibrant and nostalgic world of a stray musician – full of lies and dreams. Even if you’re not the short story kind, if you’re looking for a change of pace and love music enough to experiment with it, Nocturnes is definitely a go-ahead. And if you’ve read anything else by Ishiguro, I wouldn’t mind a recommendation myself.
P.S. This was slow in coming to me but I finally remember why the title sounds strangely familiar. Think Neil Gaiman and his graphic novel Sandman – no wonder then that this nocturnes has a dream-like aura itself!