Excerpt from Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Nocturnes

Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Nocturnes
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2009,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2010,
    240 pages.

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‘Oh yes there is, sweetie. I’m absolutely yearning to go look in that Prada store. I only came over just now to tell you I’d be longer than I said.’

‘Okay, honey.’ Tony Gardner straightened for the first time and took a deep breath. ‘So long as you’re sure you’re happy doing that.’

‘I’m gonna have a fantastic time in that store. So you two fellas, you have yourselves a good talk.’ She got to her feet and touched me on the shoulder. ‘You take care, Janeck.’

We watched her walk away, then Mr Gardner asked me a few things about being a musician in Venice, and about the Quadri orchestra in particular, who’d started playing just at that moment. He didn’t seem to listen so carefully to my answers and I was about to excuse myself and leave, when he said suddenly:

‘There’s something I want to put to you, friend. Let me tell you what’s on my mind and you can turn me down if that’s what you want.’ He leaned forward and lowered his voice. ‘Can I tell you something? The first time Lindy and I came here to Venice, it was our honeymoon. Twenty-seven years ago. And for all our happy memories of this place, we’d never been back, not together anyway. So when we were planning this trip, this special trip of ours, we said to ourselves we’ve got to spend a few days in Venice.’

‘It’s your anniversary, Mr Gardner?’

‘Anniversary?’ He looked startled.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘I just thought, because you said this was your special trip.’

He went on looking startled for a while, then he laughed, a big, booming laugh, and suddenly I remembered this particular song my mother used to play all the time where he does a talking passage in the middle of the song, something about not caring that this woman has left him, and he does this sardonic laugh. Now the same laugh was booming across the square. Then he said:

‘Anniversary? No, no, it’s not our anniversary. But what I’m proposing, it’s not so far off. Because I want to do something very romantic. I want to serenade her. Properly, Venice style. That’s where you come in. You play your guitar, I sing. We do it from a gondola, we drift under the window, I sing up to her. We’re renting a palazzo not far from here. The bedroom window looks over the canal. After dark, it’ll be perfect. The lamps on the walls light things up just right. You and me in a gondola, she comes to the window. All her favourite numbers. We don’t need to do it for long, the evenings are still kinda chilly. Just three or four songs, that’s what I have in mind. I’ll see you’re well compensated. What do you say?’

‘Mr Gardner, I’d be absolutely honoured. As I told you, you’ve been an important figure for me. When were you thinking of doing this?’

‘If it doesn’t rain, why not tonight? Around eight-thirty? We eat dinner early, so we’ll be back by then. I’ll make some excuse, leave the apartment, come and meet you. I’ll have a gondola fixed up, we’ll come back along the canal, stop under the window. It’ll be perfect. What do you say?’

You can probably imagine, this was like a dream come true. And besides, it seemed such a sweet idea, this couple — he in his sixties, she in her fifties — behaving like teenagers in love. In fact it was so sweet an idea it almost, but not quite, made me forget the scene I’d just witnessed between them. What I mean is, even at that stage, I knew deep down that things wouldn’t be as straightforward as he was making out.

For the next few minutes Mr Gardner and I sat there discussing all the details — which songs he wanted, the keys he preferred, all those kinds of things. Then it was time for me to get back to the marquee and our next set, so I stood up, shook his hand and told him he could absolutely count on me that evening.

Excerpted from Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro. Copyright © 2009 by Kazuo Ishiguro. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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