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

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Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

by Kazuo Ishiguro

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  • First Published:
    Sep 2009, 240 pages
    Sep 2010, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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Print Excerpt

‘That’s right, honey. I was having a good time talking here with . . . I’m sorry, friend, I don’t know your name.’

‘Jan,’ I said quickly. ‘But friends call me Janeck.’

Lindy Gardner said: ‘You mean your nickname’s longer than your real name? How does that work?’

‘Don’t be rude to the man, honey.’

‘I’m not being rude.’

‘Don’t make fun of the man’s name, honey. That’s a good girl.’

Lindy Gardner turned to me with a helpless sort of expression. ‘You know what he’s talking about? Did I insult you?’

‘No, no,’ I said, ‘not at all, Mrs Gardner.’

‘He’s always telling me I’m rude to the public. But I’m not rude. Was I rude to you just now?’ Then to Mr Gardner: ‘I speak to the public in a natural way, sweetie. It’s my way. I’m never rude.’

‘Okay, honey,’ Mr Gardner said, ‘let’s not make a big thing of it. Anyhow, this man here, he’s not the public.’

‘Oh, he’s not? Then what is he? A long-lost nephew?’

‘Be nice, honey. This man, he’s a colleague. A musician, a pro. He’s just been entertaining us all.’ He gestured towards our marquee.

‘Oh right!’ Lindy Gardner turned to me again. ‘You were playing up there just now? Well, that was pretty. You were on the accordion, right? Real pretty!’

‘Thank you very much. Actually, I’m the guitarist.’

‘Guitarist? You’re kidding me. I was watching you only a minute ago. Sitting right there, next to the double bass man, playing so beautifully on your accordion.’

‘Pardon me, that was in fact Carlo on the accordion. The big bald guy . . .’

‘Are you sure? You’re not kidding me?’

‘Honey, I’ve told you. Don’t be rude to the man.’

He hadn’t shouted exactly, but his voice was suddenly hard and angry, and now there was a strange silence. Then Mr Gardner himself broke it, saying gently:

‘I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t mean to snap at you.’

He reached out a hand and grasped one of hers. I’d kind of expected her to shake him off, but instead, she moved in her chair so she was closer to him, and put her free hand over their clasped pair. They sat there like that for a few seconds, Mr Gardner, his head bowed, his wife gazing emptily past his shoulder, across the square towards the Basilica, though her eyes didn’t seem to be seeing anything. For those few moments it was like they’d forgotten not just me sitting with them, but all the people in the piazza. Then she said, almost in a whisper:

‘That’s okay, sweetie. It was my fault. Getting you all upset.’

They went on sitting like that a little longer, their hands locked. Then she sighed, let go of Mr Gardner and looked at me. She’d looked at me before, but this time it was different. This time I could feel her charm. It was like she had this dial, going zero to ten, and with me, at that moment, she’d decided to turn it to six or seven, but I could feel it really strong, and if she’d asked some favour of me — if say she’d asked me to go across the square and buy her some flowers — I’d have done it happily.

‘ Janeck,’ she said. ‘That’s your name, right? I’m sorry, Janeck. Tony’s right. I’d no business speaking to you the way I did.’

‘Mrs Gardner, really, please don’t worry . . .’

‘And I disturbed the two of you talking. Musicians’ talk, I bet. You know what? I’m gonna leave the two of you to get on with it.’

‘No reason to go, honey,’ Mr Gardner said.

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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