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Pálida luz en las colinas

Pálida luz en las colinas

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Pálida luz en las colinas

valoraciones:
3/5 (711 valoraciones)
Longitud:
212 páginas
6 horas
Publicado:
1 mar 1988
ISBN:
9788433942371
Formato:
Libro

Descripción

Después del suicidio de su hija mayor, Etsuko, una japonesa de cincuenta años instalada en Inglaterra, rememora momentos de su vida. Quizá la explicación de esta tragedia familiar se encuentre agazapada en aquel Japón de los años cincuenta que se recuperaba de las heridas de la guerra y del traumatismo de la bomba atómica... En la memoria de Etsuko aparece de forma obsesiva, recurrente la imagen de otra mujer, Sachiko, una amiga y vecina que vivía sola con su hija Mariko. Dos personajes enigmáticos, a cuál más inquietante. La pequeña Mariko parece haber vivido una cruel y dolorosa experiencia, que reduce a la nada, tanto para ella como para su madre, la esperanza de una vida tranquila, lejos de las ataduras de la rígida tradición japonesa. La relación ambigua de Etsuko con Sachiko y Mariko está en el centro del enigma del libro. ¿El examen del pasado conseguirá exorcizar los demonios del presente?

Publicado:
1 mar 1988
ISBN:
9788433942371
Formato:
Libro

Sobre el autor

Kazuo Ishiguro nació en Nagasaki en 1954, pero se trasladó a Inglaterra en 1960. Es autor de ocho novelas –Pálida luz en las colinas (Premio Winifred Holtby), Un artista del mundo flotante (Premio Whitbread), Los restos del día (Premio Booker), Los inconsolables (Premio Cheltenham), Cuando fuimos huérfanos, Nunca me abandones (Premio Novela Europea Casino de Santiago), El gigante enterrado y Klara y el Sol– y un libro de relatos –Nocturnos–, obras extraordinarias que Anagrama ha publicado en castellano. En 2017 fue galardonado con el Premio Nobel de Literatura.


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Pálida luz en las colinas - Kazuo Ishiguro

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Nota

Primera parte

1

Niki, el nombre que al final le pusimos a mi hija pequeña, no es una abreviatura, fue un acuerdo al que llegué con su padre. Por paradójico que parezca, fue él quien quiso ponerle un nombre japonés, pero yo, impulsada quizá por el deseo egoísta de no querer recordar el pasado, insistí en un nombre inglés. Al final, consintió en ponerle Niki, pensando que este nombre tenía ciertas resonancias orientales.

Niki vino a verme a principios de este año, en abril, cuando los días eran todavía fríos y húmedos. Quizá tenía intención de quedarse más tiempo, no lo sé, pero mi finca y la calma que allí reinaba la intranquilizaban y, poco tiempo después noté que se sentía ansiosa por volver a su vida en Londres. Oía mis discos de música clásica con impaciencia y hojeaba rápidamente una revista tras otra. La llamaban por teléfono constantemente y entonces ella, con unas ropas muy ceñidas que apretaban su delgada silueta, cruzaba la alfombra dando zancadas, asegurándose de cerrar la puerta para que yo no alcanzase a oír la conversación. Al cabo de cinco días, se marchó.

Hasta el segundo día no mencionó a Keiko. Era una mañana de viento, gris, y habíamos acercado los sillones al ventanal para ver caer la lluvia en el jardín.

–¿Esperabas que fuese? –me preguntó–. Al funeral, quiero decir.

–No, supongo que no. En realidad, no pensé que fueras a ir.

–Me desconcertó oír hablar de ella. Estuve a punto de asistir.

–En ningún momento conté con que fueses.

–La gente no sabía lo que me pasaba –dijo–. No se lo conté a nadie. Supongo que me sentía violenta. En realidad, nadie lo habría comprendido. Nadie habría comprendido mi actitud. La gente piensa que las hermanas son personas a las que estás muy unida. Quizá no les tienes mucho aprecio, pero estás muy unida a ellas. Sin embargo, no era ese mi caso. Ahora ni siquiera recuerdo su aspecto.

–Sí, ya ha pasado bastante tiempo desde que la viste por última vez.

–Solo la recuerdo como alguien que solía hacerme desgraciada. Eso es lo que recuerdo de ella. Sin embargo, lo lamenté mucho cuando me enteré.

Quizá no fuese la calma lo único que impulsó a mi hija a volver a Londres. Aunque nunca nos explayábamos mucho en torno a la muerte de Keiko, era un tema cuya presencia sentíamos cerca, a nuestro alrededor, cada vez que hablábamos.

Keiko, a diferencia de Niki, era totalmente japonesa, y más de un periódico se apresuró a resaltar esta circunstancia. Los ingleses son muy dados a pensar que en nuestra raza el suicidio es algo instintivo, como si no fuese necesario dar más explicaciones; por eso, lo único que contaron fue que era japonesa y que se había ahorcado en su habitación.

Esa misma noche, estaba yo de pie junto al ventanal, contemplando la oscuridad, cuando detrás de mí oí decir a Niki:

–¿En qué estás pensando ahora, madre?

Ella estaba echada en el sofá, con un libro en las rodillas.

–Estaba pensando en alguien que conocí una vez. Una mujer.

–¿Alguien que conociste cuando tú..., antes de venir a Inglaterra?

–La conocí cuando vivía en Nagasaki, si te refieres a eso. –Niki seguía observándome, de modo que añadí–: De eso hace bastante tiempo. Mucho antes de conocer a tu padre.

Pareció quedarse satisfecha y, musitando algo, volvió a coger el libro. Niki era una criatura muy afectuosa en muchos sentidos. No solo había venido a ver cómo me había sentado la noticia de la muerte de Keiko; el venir a verme también había sido un gesto de buena voluntad. Durante los últimos años se había empeñado en manifestar su admiración por algunos aspectos de mi pasado, y vino dispuesta a decirme que nada había cambiado, que no debía arrepentirme por las decisiones tomadas antaño. En resumidas cuentas, para infundirme la seguridad de que yo no era responsable de la muerte de Keiko.

Ahora no tengo muchas ganas de hablar de Keiko. No es algo que me consuele. Solo la he mencionado porque esas fueron las circunstancias que rodearon la visita de Niki el pasado mes de abril, y porque durante esa visita volví a recordar a Sachiko después de tanto tiempo. Nunca conocí bien a Sachiko. En realidad, nuestra amistad fue cosa de unos cuantos meses de verano, hace ahora muchos años.

Para entonces: ya habían pasado los peores días. Había tantos soldados americanos como siempre, pues había guerra en Corea. Pero en Nagasaki, después de todo lo sucedido, aquellos eran días de tranquilidad y consuelo. Se tenía la sensación de que el mundo estaba cambiando.

Mi marido y yo vivíamos en un barrio al este de la ciudad. Un corto recorrido en tranvía nos separaba del centro. Cerca de nuestra casa pasaba un río y, en una ocasión, me contaron que antes de la guerra se había formado una aldea a la orilla del río. Pero después cayó la bomba y solo quedaron ruinas carbonizadas. Se empezó a reconstruir y en poco tiempo levantaron cuatro edificios de cemento, cada uno de unas cuarenta viviendas independientes. De los cuatro, el nuestro fue el último, y con él quedó interrumpido el programa de reconstrucción. Entre nuestra casa y el lecho del río había una extensión de tierra baldía, varios acres de barro seco y zanjas. Muchos se quejaban de que aquello era un riesgo para la salud y, en efecto, el alcantarillado era malísimo. Durante todo el año había cráteres llenos de agua estancada, y en los meses de verano los mosquitos resultaban insoportables. De vez en cuando aparecían por allí funcionarios que medían pasos o tomaban datos precipitadamente, pero transcurrieron los meses y todo siguió igual.

En los bloques de viviendas residía gente como nosotros, matrimonios jóvenes de los cuales el marido había encontrado un buen trabajo en empresas con futuro. Muchos pisos eran propiedad de las empresas y éstas los alquilaban a sus empleados a muy buen precio. Todos los pisos eran idénticos. En los suelos había tatami. Los cuartos de baño y la cocina tenían diseño occidental. Los pisos eran pequeños y resultaba difícil mantenerlos frescos durante los meses de más calor, pero, en general, los que vivían allí parecían sentirse satisfechos. Con todo, recuerdo que se respiraba un inconfundible aire de transitoriedad, como si todos esperásemos el día en que pudiéramos mudarnos a un sitio mejor.

Un caserón de madera había sobrevivido a la devastación de la guerra y a las apisonadoras del gobierno. Yo alcanzaba a verlo desde la ventana, allí en medio, solitario, al fondo de aquella extensión de tierra baldía, prácticamente al borde del río. Era el tipo de caserón que con frecuencia se ve en el campo, de techo inclinado con tejas casi tocando el suelo. A menudo, en mis ratos muertos, me ponía en la ventana a contemplarlo.

A juzgar por el interés que suscitó la llegada de Sachiko, yo no debía de ser la única que contemplaba el caserón. Se rumoreaba que un día habían visto a dos hombres trabajando por allí, y si serían o no empleados del gobierno. Después, se rumoreó que una mujer y su hija estaban viviendo en el caserón; en varias ocasiones, yo misma las vi cruzando el terreno lleno de zanjas en esa dirección.

Por entonces, a principios de verano, vi por primera vez aquel gran coche blanco americano, bastante estropeado, que se dirigía hacia el río dando tumbos por el descampado. La tarde estaba ya muy avanzada y el sol, que se ocultaba tras el caserón, irradió brillantes destellos sobre la carrocería metálica.

Después, otra tarde, en la parada del tranvía vi a dos mujeres hablando acerca de la que se había mudado a la casa abandonada junto al río. Una le explicaba a la otra cómo esa mañana le había dicho algo a la mujer, y que esta le había hecho un desaire. La oyente estaba de acuerdo en que la recién llegada parecía algo antipática, orgullosa quizá. Como mínimo debía de tener treinta años, pensaban ellas, ya que la niña tenía por lo menos diez. La primera mujer dijo que la forastera se había expresado en un dialecto de Tokio y que, con toda seguridad, no era de Nagasaki. Durante un rato hablaron de su «amigo americano», y la mujer insistió en lo antipática que la forastera había sido con ella aquella mañana.

Ahora no tengo ninguna duda de que entre aquellas mujeres con quienes yo vivía, unas habían sufrido y otras tenían recuerdos tristes y horribles. Sin embargo, al verlas un día tras otro, ocupadas con sus maridos y sus hijos, me resultaba difícil creer que sus vidas hubiesen padecido las tragedias y pesadillas de la guerra. Nunca fue mi intención parecer antipática, pero probablemente tampoco hice ningún esfuerzo especial por parecer otra cosa. En aquellos momentos de mi vida, todavía deseaba que me dejasen sola.

Entonces escuché con interés a aquellas mujeres que hablaban de Sachiko. Recuerdo con toda claridad aquella tarde en la parada del tranvía. Era uno de los primeros días en que brillaba el sol después de la estación lluviosa de junio, y a nuestro alrededor las superficies de ladrillo y cemento completamente empapadas se estaban secando. Estábamos en un puente del ferrocarril, y, a un lado de los raíles que había al pie de la colina, podía verse un grupo de tejados, como si un montón de casas se hubiese desmoronado por la pendiente. Al otro lado de las casas, un poco más lejos, se veían nuestros bloques allí planeados, como cuatro pilares de cemento. En ese momento sentí una especie de solidaridad con Sachiko, y en cierto modo comprendí esa frialdad que había notado en ella al observarla desde lejos.

Aquel verano nos haríamos amigas, y al menos durante un corto período de tiempo, llegaría a tener confianza en mí. Ahora no estoy muy segura de cómo fue la primera vez que nos encontramos. Recuerdo que una tarde reconocí su cara delante de mí, en el camino que conduce fuera de la urbanización. Me di prisa, pero Sachiko siguió caminando a grandes zancadas. Por aquel entonces ya nos debíamos conocer de oídas, pues recuerdo que cuando estuve más cerca la llamé. Sachiko se volvió y esperó a que la alcanzase.

–¿Ocurre algo? –preguntó.

–Me alegro de haberte encontrado –dije yo, casi sin aliento–. Tu hija se estaba peleando justo cuando yo salía. Allí detrás, cerca de las zanjas.

–¿Estaba peleándose?

–Con un niño y una niña. Parecía una pelea bastante desagradable.

–Ya veo. –Sachiko empezó a andar otra vez.

La seguí.

–No quiero alarmarte –dije–, pero parecía una pelea muy violenta. Me ha parecido que tu hija tenía un corte en la mejilla.

–Ya veo.

–Era allí detrás, al borde del descampado.

–¿Y crees que aún estarán peleando? –Siguió subiendo por la colina.

–No. Vi a tu hija salir corriendo.

Sachiko me miró y sonrió:

–¿No estás acostumbrada a ver pelearse a los niños?

–Bueno, supongo que todos los niños lo hacen. Pero pensé que debía decírtelo. ¿Sabes?, no creo que tu hija se dirigiese a la escuela. Los demás niños siguieron hacia el colegio, pero ella fue hacia el río.

Sachiko no hizo ningún comentario y siguió subiendo por la colina.

–En realidad, quería habértelo comentado antes. ¿Sabes?, últimamente he visto a tu hija en bastantes ocasiones, y me pregunto, quizá, si no ha estado holgazaneando un poco.

El sendero se bifurcaba en lo alto de la colina, Sachiko se detuvo y nos volvimos una hacia la otra.

–Es muy amable de tu parte que te preocupes tanto, Etsuko –dijo–. Muy amable, estoy segura de que serás una madre fantástica.

Anteriormente me había figurado, como las mujeres de la parada del tranvía, que Sachiko tendría unos treinta años. Pero su silueta juvenil resultaba engañosa, su cara era de persona mayor. Me observaba fijamente con una expresión un tanto divertida, y algo en su forma de mirarme me hizo sonreír tímidamente.

–Etsuko, de verdad que aprecio el que hayas venido a buscarme –prosiguió–. Pero como puedes ver, precisamente ahora estoy bastante ocupada. Tengo que ir a Nagasaki.

–Ya veo. Solo pensé que era mejor venir a decírtelo. No era más que eso.

Por un instante siguió mirándome fijamente con la expresión divertida de antes. Después dijo:

–¡Qué amable eres! Ahora, te ruego que me disculpes. Tengo que ir a la ciudad. –Hizo una reverencia y se dirigió hacia el camino que llevaba a la parada del tranvía.

–Es que precisamente tenía un corte en la cara –dije, levantando un poco la voz–. Y en algunas zonas, el río es muy peligroso. Solo pensé que era mejor venir a decírtelo.

Se volvió y me miró una vez más.

–Si no tienes otra cosa que hacer –dijo–, quizá te gustaría cuidar de mi hija durante el día. Volveré esta tarde. Estoy segura de que te llevarás muy bien con ella.

–No me molesta, si es lo que deseas. La verdad es que tu hija parece demasiado pequeña como para dejarla sola todo el día.

–De verdad eres muy amable –dijo Sachiko otra vez. Después volvió a sonreír–. Sí, estoy segura de que serás una madre fantástica.

Después de despedirme de Sachiko, volví a mi casa bajando por la colina y cruzando la urbanización. Enseguida me encontré en nuestro edificio, frente a la extensión de tierra baldía. Al no ver rastro de la niña, estuve a punto de entrar, pero en ese momento advertí que algo se movía junto a la orilla. Mariko debía de haber estado agachada, ya que ahora alcanzaba a ver con toda claridad su pequeña silueta al otro lado del lodazal. En un principio tuve el impulso de olvidarme de todo y volver a mis tareas domésticas; sin embargo, al final me encaminé hacia ella procurando evitar las zanjas.

Que yo recuerde, esa fue la primera vez que hablé con Mariko. Probablemente aquella mañana no hubiese nada extraordinario en su conducta ya que, después de todo, yo era una extraña para la niña y tenía todo el derecho a mirarme con sospecha. Y si bien es verdad que en ese momento noté un curioso sentimiento de inquietud, tal vez no fue más que una mera respuesta a la conducta de Mariko.

Aquella mañana, después de la estación de lluvias que habíamos tenido hasta unas semanas antes, el río iba bastante alto y fluía con rapidez. El terreno caía a pico antes de llegar a la orilla y el barro acumulado al final de la pendiente, donde estaba la niña, parecía claramente más húmedo. Mariko llevaba puesto un simple vestido de algodón hasta las rodillas, y el pelo corto le hacía cara de chico. Levantó la mirada sin sonreír hacia donde yo estaba, en lo alto de la pendiente fangosa.

–Hola –le dije–, justamente acabo de hablar con tu madre. Tú debes de ser Mariko-San.¹

La niña siguió mirándome fijamente, sin decir nada. Lo que antes había creído que era una herida en la mejilla, ahora vi que era una mancha de barro.

–¿No deberías estar en el colegio? –le pregunté.

Por un momento permaneció silenciosa. Después dijo:

–Yo no voy al colegio.

–Pero todos los niños deben ir al colegio. ¿Es que no te gusta ir?

–Yo no voy al colegio.

–¿Pero no te ha enviado tu madre a algún colegio?

Mariko no contestó. En vez de eso, dio un paso atrás y se

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  • (5/5)
    A Pale View of the Hills (Faber) is Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel, initially published in 1982. Etsuko lives in the UK but looks back to her earlier life in post war, and post atom bomb, Nagasaki. A change emerges between traditional Japanese values and the familial relationships, and the ‘Western’ influences which appeared to influence the new generation. Her new life in England is not necessarily the better one she was seeking and has its own tragedy. Ishiguro’s beautifully simple prose disguises the enigmatic nature of the story that is being told on more than one level.
  • (3/5)
    A strange story of a Japanese woman who I think is in England after her daughter died or she lived in England and her daughter died, It jumps for the present to the past in post war Japan, to be honest I lost the plot somewhere along the way but I like his stuff so I stayed with it. I kep expecting some meaningfulm insight into things but it seemd like endless reminiscience…maybe I missed somnething?
  • (4/5)
    It's amazing that "A Pale View of Hills" is Kazuo Ishiguro's debut novel. It's strong work and bears so many hallmarks of his future novels as well.Here, our narrator is a Japanese woman who now lives in America, reminiscing about her life in Nagasaki. She tells a tale that appears to mirror her own life (or was her own life, I wasn't totally sure.) It's the story of the relationships between parents and children and what is seen and unseen (intentionally or not.)There were some similarities to Ishiguro's later work, but I still enjoyed this a lot.
  • (4/5)
    OK, so my own wacky interpretation of this novel is that Etsuko resented Sachiko's mistreatment of Mariko, and out of pity for Mariko she kidnapped her and took on the role of her mother. Moving to the UK and renaming her Keiko to get away from the trauma. The stark difference in the way Etsuko and Sachiko feel about Mariko makes me feel they can't be one and the same.This isn't as well written or polished as Kazuo Ishiguro's later works, but certainly worth a read. If only for the discussion points and ambiguity in the final few chapters.
  • (4/5)
    A disturbing short novel. A Japanese woman expat in England reminisces about her early life in Nagasaki shortly after the end of the war. She remembers a friend with a child with dreams of being taken to the USA by her unreliable American boyfriend. The child imagines an old lady across the river. Back in England other memories are of a daughter committing suicide. But who is who? Is the memory of Japan of herself or another woman? Is the memory of the strange child in Japan her own child? As she gets older is she trying to make sense of her own life?
  • (4/5)
    I love the writing and quiet voice of Kazuo Ishiguro, this story (or parallel stories) of post-war Japan moves along quietly in the shadow of the death by suicide of Etsuko's eldest daughter.
  • (4/5)
    As always, Kazuo Ishiguro delivers a masterfully written and melancholy work.

    A middle-aged Japanese woman living in England receives a visit from her semi-estranged younger daughter, following the suicide of her older daughter.

    As the narrator, the middle-aged woman, Etsuko, tells the story of another woman, Sachiko, claiming: “I never knew Sachiko well. In fact, our friendship was no more than a matter of some several weeks one summer many years ago.” It doesn’t take long to realize that Etsuko seems remarkably emotionally involved – if that was the case, and if she’s telling the truth. As the novel progresses, more and more parallels between the painful lives of Etsuko and Sachiko become evident.

    It’s left up to the reader to decide what might be factually true – but the book is really about emotional truth – a musing on the idea that, as Ishiguro describes it: “the English are fond of their idea that our race has an instinct for suicide, as if further explanations are unnecessary.” The novel’s descriptions of the trauma following the years of WWII, and the details of how the social upheaval of that time affected the lives of ordinary people, work toward giving part of an explanation.

    A sad, but beautiful and illuminating book.
  • (4/5)
    This novel, about an older woman (Etsuko) reflecting on her past in Japan after her daughter's suicide, was one of those stories that seems deceptively simple until the very end. I've read and loved other Ishiguro novels, and the same themes run through this debut: a possibly unreliable narrator, a haunting past casting a long shadow on the present, a desire to both escape and delve deeper into such a past for answers. Who Etsuko really was is ultimately left up to the reader, which is frustrating but makes sense given her state of mind. SPOILER ALERT (because I just can't help myself): I think Etsuko's memories of other people are really dissociated memories of her own actions that she finds shameful, regretful, and believes to have led to her daughter's suicide, which made my blood run cold when I realized this.
  • (4/5)
    In Ishiguro's first novel, A Pale View of Hills, an older woman named Etsuko is living alone in England and is visited by her younger daughter, Niki. This visit elicits a number of reflections in Etsuko - from more recent half-formed thoughts about her older daughter Keiko's suicide to older memories of when Etsuko was a young wife, pregnant with her first child and living in post-World War II Nagasaki. Many of these memories circle around Etsuko's friendship with a neighbor named Sachiko and her daughter Mariko. Others recall Etsuko's first husband, Jiro, and her father-in-law, Ogata.As with all of Ishiguro's works that I've read so far, the writing style in this novel is smooth and flows easily, although it is a bit less polished than his later books. Etsuko warns the reader early on that she is an unreliable narrator, but exactly how true that is does not become entirely clear until very near the end of the novel. Ishiguro's mastery in this book is to write something that is evocative and interesting but does not seem to be particularly significant all along and then throw in a monkey wrench by way of a few lines that cause the reader to re-evaluate not only the scene that just occurred but also everything else they took for granted in the story. Indeed, this is a book that will leave the reader mulling over it long after its ending, with various interpretations being put forth by each reader.In addition to its mysterious and not fully explained content, this book explores many themes. Most notable is of course the reliability of memory, but there are also topics concerning motherhood and the parent/child relationship, generational relationships in general, the contrast - and sometimes conflict - between modernity and tradition, cultural differences and appropriation, and the effects of war on the human psyche. This little book packs a solid amount of food for thought. While some readers may find the lack of a conclusive ending off-putting, I think it's well worth the read and recommend it for when you're in the mood for something thought-provoking.
  • (4/5)
    A poised, elliptical story of post-war Japan and contrasting cultures, generations and family relationships.
  • (4/5)
    A Pale View of Hills is Ishiguro's first novel and already you can see the subtle, enigmatic writer that always surprises. This novel is narrated by Etsuko, a Japanese woman who is living alone in Britain. Her younger daughter, Niki, comes to visit her and this seems to spur all sorts of memories for her. Through these memories, portions of Etsuko's life are slowly and incompletely revealed. We learn that Etsuko lived in Japan during WWII and obviously experienced a lot of trauma, though there are no details revealed. She was married to a man name Jiro and had his child, Keiko, while she was in Japan. At some point she left him to move to Britain with a man, taking Keiko with her and later having Niki with the British man. We also learn that Keiko committed suicide. Etsuko's British husband has died and we never find out what happened to Jiro. All of these details are revealed subtlety and out of order, so it takes a while to piece together the story. It is all interspersed with Etsuko's memories of her interactions with a woman named Sachiko and her daughter Mariko. Etsuko at that point was married to Jiro and pregnant. She is judgmental of Sachiko's parenting and her decision to leave Japan to go to America with Frank, a man who does not seem very dependable. There is definitely an "unreliable narrator" element to this book. Etsuko is damaged, not only from the war, but also by her daughter's suicide and probably her marriages as well. It is hard to tell how much truth we can take from her memories. And then there is a twist at the end (no surprise there to readers of Ishiguro's other novels) that makes the reader wonder how much of Sachiko's actions were really Sachiko's and how many of those actions were really Etsuko's actions projected on to Sachiko. It's all rather mysterious and haunting.What I found interesting about this book is that as I was going along reading/listening I kind of kept wondering "where in the world is this going"? It is such a simple story and doesn't really seem to have a point - just the memories of an older woman that don't really tie together. But then in the last few minutes of the book, Ishiguro throws in a new idea and all of a sudden I want to read the book again with my eye on it differently.
  • (3/5)
    I've read two Ishiguro novels before, so I sort of knew what to expect. Though the subjects at the heart of his novel can be night and day, there seems to be a similarity in tone and in narrative voice. Expecting that, I went into A Pale View of Hills looking for the trap, hoping to spot in what ways the narrator was unreliable. And here's the problem: I spotted it in chapter 1. It seemed much too obvious. Or at least I thought I had spotted it. After finishing the novel, I was slightly confused on why some elements were included, so I looked them up. What I found were comments from people saying they didn't get it until the final moment, or on a second reading; there were theories that were so far left of what I thought had happened that I questioned if I wasn't a moron. Maybe I had been looking too hard for the solution and had misjudged. Perhaps my early theory tainted my reading and I missed obvious clues. I don't know. That's the problem with this book is that nothing is clear. I still don't know whether I'm an intuitive reader who picked up the clues in the very first chapter, or an idiot who still doesn't get it. (If you've read this novel and have a theory, I'd love to hear it.)As far as the story, it was mostly what I expected. It certainly had that Ishiguro signature to it. That being said, this was a debut novel and I certainly felt it was a little weak. For starters, all the pieces don't quite come together (or my misinterpretation of events altered their ability to come together). Secondly, the dialogue is a great chore to slog through. Why is it so repetitive? Is this meant to be a literary device? Is it meant to evoke local dialect? For those who haven't read the novel, I'm not talking about the occasional repeated phrase—it happens on nearly every page. A character will say something three, four times, then repeat the same phrase three times ten pages later, then repeat it again twelve pages later, and on and on. Whatever its purpose, it is irritating and unfortunately that hinders my enjoyment of the story.A Pale View of Hills has left me with many uncertainties. It's a decent novel, but where it is strongest is in its mysteries. Unfortunately, the mysteries may be too thick. Thirty-two years after its publication, it seems people are still arguing what really happened. I have my theory. I think I'm right. But knowing that I may never know for sure is really bothersome.
  • (4/5)
    This is a beautiful novel that calls for patient and careful reading. I admire the way it's constructed. The cares and concerns of three pairs of mothers and daughters are refracted off one another. The first two pair live near a resurgent Nagasaki sometime toward the end of the American Occupation of Japan, about 1951-52. Here the pregnant Etsuko, who narrates, lives with her husband Jiro, in a new concrete residential building along the river. From her window, across a stretch of wasteland, Etsuko can see, much closer to the river, an old cottage built in the traditional style. It is there that Sachiko and her daughter Mariko live. The third mother-daughter pair are in England of about 1980 or so. This pair is comprised of an older Etsuko and Niki, a daughter Etsuko has had by a second English-born husband. Another daughter, Keiko, fathered by Jiro, presumably the child Etsuko carries in the earlier timeframe, has recently committed suicide in her Manchester flat. Moreover, Etsuko's second husband has also died. (We never learn what became of Jiro.) So one can see why Etsuko is unreliable for reasons too traumatic to face. She has lived through the American bombing of Nagasaki, but her wounds are entirely psychological. She has lost much, but specifically what she has lost is never described, only intimated. Ishiguro's elliptical style seems fully mature here in his first novel. It's unquestionably the same one he uses in later works. The penultimate page contains what we might call the narrative atomic-bomb. On reading it this second time--my memory of the subtle story had grown hazy over the intervening years--I all but jumped from my chair. Brilliant stuff, highly recommended.
  • (3/5)
    Een kort, maar merkwaardig boekje. Je begint eraan en het lijkt een vrij conventioneel verteld verhaal door Etsuko, een Japanse die al jaren in Engeland woont en die het trauma verwerkt van een dochter die net gestorven is. Ze spreekt daarover met haar enige andere dochter, die bij haar op bezoek is. Het grootste deel van het boek bestaat uit flashbacks, naar de tijd dat de vrouw in de Japanse stad Nagasaki woonde, enkele jaren na de atoombom, en in verwachting was van haar eerste kind. Ze haalt vooral herinneringen op aan haar omgang met een merkwaardige vrouw die samen met haar dochtertje in een afgelegen huisje bij de rivier woont. Geleidelijk aan wordt duidelijk dat het verhaal niet zo simpel is als eerst gedacht. De dochter van Etsuko blijkt zelfmoord te hebben gepleegd, en de andere dochter blijkt een halfzuster uit het tweede huwelijk van de vrouw, met een Engelsman. In de Japanse scenes duikt een nogal onbehouwen echtgenoot op en diens vader, die staat voor het vooroorlogse Japan. Maar vooral de omgang met de vrouw bij de rivier is merkwaardig, want die houdt er een heel aparte levensstijl op na en verwaarloost klaarblijkelijk haar dochter. In steeds sneller tempo worden verontrustende en mysterieuze elementen rondgestrooid, waardoor het verhaal de sfeer van een thriller krijgt. Een echte ontknoping is er niet, maar ik kan wel verklappen dat Ishiguro je tegen het einde volledig in de war brengt, zodat je je na het dichtklappen van het boek afvraagt of je niet heel de tijd bij de neus bent genomen, en dit boek over iets heel anders gaat dan aanvankelijk leek. Er circuleren allerlei theorieën over hoe je deze roman moet interpreteren (droomverbeelding, traumatische hallucinatie, ...) en wat de hoofdthema’s zijn (problematische moeder-dochter-relatie/het trauma van het Japans oorlogsverleden/de moeilijke overplanting van de ene cultuur in de andere/…). Ik merk dat de meeste reviewers er niet uitkomen, en dat geldt ook voor mij. Wat ik wel weet, is dat Ishiguro in dit debuut al een meesterschap toont dat ongeëvenaard is. Vooral de langzame dialoogscenes zijn beklijvend, door wat onuitgesproken blijft. In die zin doet het erg Japans aan. Helemaal geslaagd vind ik het boekje niet, maar beklijvend is het alleszins!
  • (4/5)
    Beautiful writing, as always. Thoughtful, contemplative. Unreliable. Figuring it out really isn't the point, feeling it is.
  • (3/5)
    3.5 stars - This book was well written and had that surreal feeling of Ishiguro's novels, but was lacking the unforgettable haunting quality of The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go which were both amazing books and two of my favorites. The basic story is about a woman named Etsuko who is mourning the suicide of her daughter. Most of the rest of the book is told as a flashback where Etsuko remembers her past life in Nagasaki after the war, and the difficulty she had in trying to escape the poverty and bleakness of her life. The book has a bit of a twist/mystery to it which leaves you wondering, but in some ways I was expecting a different type of 'ah ha' revelation that would explain a bit more about why Etsuko's daughter commits suicide.
  • (5/5)
    I liked this story and the style of writing. I was puzzled, though, as to what the story was trying to express. I thought it was going to tell about the narrator's daughter Kikei, but it did not. I had to go to the Wikipedia article about this story to be sure I understood it correctly. I wasn't sure why the story of Kikei was dropped and the story of Sachiko and Mariko expounded. I also had a hard time remembering that Etsuko was in Great Britain and not in Japan. I did feel the recurrent theme of the change in relationship between children and their elders. The lack of respect for elders was disturbing in the way it was evoked in the book. This is a very interesting story and worthwhile read!
  • (4/5)
    Unusual, but striking story
  • (5/5)
    Fantastic book, with a conclusion that I imagine I'll be trying to wrap my head around for days. I will definitely be rereading this book again soon with a fresh perspective.
  • (2/5)
    I just couldn't connect to this novel, or any of the characters. Even the narrator managed to be completely distant.

    For all the conversations, so little was said. They didn't even seem to talk around the issues, so much as avoid them entirely. However, near the end, I began to sort of understand a few of the characters' situations. And yet--- I just couldn't connect with any of them.

    I guess I just wanted more. More history, more backstory, more sense. Maybe less creepiness from Sachiko. While eventually I understood what *had* happened, nothing meant anything because it wasn't connected.

    However, it was beautifully written, so carefully drawn. Perhaps I just didn't give it enough focus. And I did read it quickly. Worth reading, especially to talk about. It would be a fun novel to read in a group and would benefit from discussion, I think.
  • (4/5)
    The novel is the story of Etsuko, a Japanese widow now living alone in England, dwelling on the recent suicide of her daughter. Retreating into the past, she finds herself reliving one particular summer in Nagasaki, when the people of Japan were struggling to rebuild their lives after the war. As she recalls her strange friendship with Sachiko - a wealthy woman reduced to vagrancy – and Sachiko’s dysfunctional relationship with her young daughter, the story becomes eerie and unreliable.This slim novel packs a punch. I loved the insight it provided into Japanese culture and the emotional obstacles faced as a result of WWII. Without giving much away, I am still thinking about this book and the different possibilities for what was meant and what happened.
  • (4/5)
    This is the second novel I have read by Ishiguro - the first was Never Let Me Go which is one of the best novels I've ever read. This one, his debut novel, was very different for me. It goes back and forth in time about a woman who lived in Nagasaki not long after the bomb was dropped. The part that takes place in the past revolves around her relationship with a poor neighbor woman with a young daughter, at a time when she is pregnant with her first child. The novel reflects a lot on the culture in Japan at the time. When the novel jumps back to the current time, her relationship with her own daughter is explored, and there is another relationship that is touched on - that of her first daughter, who has committed suicide. To be honest, I'm not 100% sure of what really happened to the narrator, her poor neighbor friend, or her friend's daughter. An unsettling novel, just like Never Let Me Go was for me. I will definitely read more Ishiguro.
  • (4/5)
    This book feels like it's very well-written. It's a very poetic sort of read. But at the end of the day I feel a bit indifferent, perhaps because it went by too quickly. I wish it was a bit longer. A bit less of a hallucination. A bit less enigmatic and less of a tease. For much of the book I found myself wondering what it was going to be about. I thought it would be about the atomic bomb, then it turned out not to be. About the difference between East and West? I don't think there's enough in the book to suggest that it's about that. Difference in generations? Perhaps. The view on women in Japan? Depression? Ultimately there's a little bit about each of these things, but the thing that I take away seems to be some of the antisocial behaviours of Ishiguro's characters.Undeniable, however, is that Ishiguro has beautiful prose. His ability to embed and imply his stories is great to read. Whether the narrator and Sachiko are one person I think is a question that the author has intentionally left unanswered. I tend to think they are, but don't think there's an absolute answer to it. Although, if Ishiguro hadn't had the intention he wouldn't have written the book the way it is.... [Be] honest with yourself. In your heart of hearts, you must know yourself what I'm saying is true. And to be fair, you shouldn't be blamed for not realizing the true consequences of your action. Very few men could see where it was all leading at the time, and those men were put in prison for saying what they thought. But they're free now, and they'll lead us to a new dawn. (150)I think the book is better than I realize. And the more I go over this quotation the more I think it is.
  • (3/5)
    This is an enigmatic story that moved slowly but evocatively, with speech and narration showing something of the subtlety and indirectness thought to characterise the Japanese. It paints a portrait of Etsuko, the narrator, a Japanese woman now living in England, reflecting during the visit of one of her daughters on the suicide of her other daughter, and a friendship made with a woman named Sachiko during her time living in Nagasaki. Some reviewers draw attention to issues such as memory and 'truth', and the 'reliability' or otherwise of Etsuko as a narrator, and these themes are definitely raised by this novel, which allows the reader to fill in many of the gaps in the narrative as s/he chooses.
  • (4/5)
    Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel is beautifully written, although I can’t say I fully understood it. The story is narrated by a Japanese woman, Etsuko, whose older daughter just committed suicide. This tragedy seems to have awoken memories of a summer in Nagasaki (Etsuko lives in Britain now) not long after the bombing, when Etsuko was pregnant, presumably with the daughter who has just died. She recalls a woman she briefly knew who lived near her and also had a daughter, a little girl who seems withdrawn and damaged by her experiences during the war. Ishiguro is even more subtle than usual, and a lot of the details of Etsuko’s life are left to the reader to fill in. For instance, it is difficult to tell which of Etsuko’s memories are of this other mother daughter and daughter, and which are of her own daughter. But mostly, this short novel is about how Japan was irrevocably changed after the war and how the various characters fail to deal with that change, just as Etsuko ultimately fails to deal with the death of her daughter. In that aspect, this is a very moving story indeed.
  • (3/5)
    That was fast! I had a couple of long subway rides and finished it in record time. I agree, this is not my favorite Ishiguro book, that honor still resides withNever Let Me Go. It reminded me of An Artist of the Floating World in style, setting, and characters. In the end, the reader doesn't really know what went on, the narrator's recollections are unreliable. The best description of the book comes from a blurb on the back: "A macabre and faultlessly worked enigma." -- Sunday Times
  • (1/5)
    Beautifully written but somewhat meandering, as memories are and this reflects the gap between remembering the past and what actually happened. The books ends disappointingly and not with any sense of a finish, Nothing is answered and many questions remains unresolved for the reader to ponder.Ultimately it's unsatisfying.
  • (4/5)
    Potential readers should be warned that A Pale View Of Hills is a mysterious tale with no pay-off. Ishiguro doesn't lay out the neat explanation of events in the last 20 pages that we, as readers, have come to expect. Instead, he seems to be exploring the idea that memories are highly subjective and never strictly factual, so sifting through them hoping to understand the past - as his protagonist Etsuko attempts to do - is folly. It is challenging to stick with a story that remains blurry around the edges right through, but the novelty of that, plus Ishiguro's beautiful writing style, are what made this book a worthwhile read for me.
  • (5/5)
    Ishiguro has written this novel with the spare grace of a Japanese painting- a brush stroke here, another there; you must infer the rest. Past and present shift and blur at times. One is not entirely sure how many women there are in this story, or who is who. Etsuko, a Japanese born woman living in Japan, is dealing with the recent suicide of her elder daughter. With her younger daughter staying with her, she reflects on her own past in Japan, when she was a young wife, pregnant with her first child. Living in Nagasaki, the city so recently devastated by the American bomb, she becomes friends with Sachiko, a woman who-along with a young daughter- lives in a shack that has no electricity or water, spends her days working in a noodle shop and her evenings with an American service man who she expects to take her to live with him when he is shipped back home. This life is very different from Etsuko’s- she is married to a man who expects instant obedience from her and spends her days cleaning and cooking. Sachiko’s daughter, Mariko, is a fey child who does not go to school and spends her time by herself or with a batch of kittens, sometimes speaking of a woman that no one else sees. And there is a child murderer on the loose.... How accurate are Etsuko’s memories? Is there more to her past than she admits in her mind? Does she have some connection with the murderer, or with Sachiko? These things are unresolved. Memory can be like that; many times one doesn’t see the past in a clear cut way. In the 24 hours since I finished reading this book, I’ve wondered over and over about these things and am no closer to the answer, but the wondering is a pleasant thing.
  • (5/5)
    I'm absolutely in love with it. Having said that, it's hard to review it without giving surprises away. [[Ishiguro]] is one of my favorite authors and this book is like his others in that it's not as straight forward a story as you might think, starting out. Etsuko, a Japanese woman remembers a summer in Nagasaki when she was pregnant, and had met Sachiko. The story flips between present day and that summer, and although there seems to be a progression in events, Ishiguro keeps his surprise till the very end and leaves you with a few possible conclusions. He certainly had me mulling over a few scenarios when I had finished reading it.