The Unconsoled

I think the most dream-like feature of this book is its ambiguity. When reading, it feels like you are watching someone else’s dream, surrounded by blanks because it is their subconscious and you must put the pieces together yourself. We do not even know the setting, it is an unnamed city that the inhabitants are very passionate about, however we can figure out that it is somewhere in Central Europe because of the names. There is no specific dates but we can assume it is in the ‘90’s due to references like “2001: A space Oddysey” being shown in the cinema. But it doesn’t completely seem like the 90’s because the theatre is very old-fashioned with people playing cards in the back; and the language seems generally distant. The language almost seems like this work is a translation. The protagonist, Ryder, arrives in this dream-city only to find himself perpetually puzzled by an inability to remember why exactly he is there or where he is supposed to be next at any given moment, and he’s under siege from the solicitous and demanding local citizens. They seem the personification of his waking anxieties; perhaps they are projections and each represents a certain problem. For instance the citizens can be characterized as each containing some single human flaw: self-delusional, consumed with appearances, honor, and duty. This becomes more and more clear as we hear the stories of their lives. The most clarifying moments are when Ryder remembers things. It seems he is remembering things from his waking life that the particular character relates to. One of these memories seemed particularly relevant to me. Early on in the book, while talking to Sophie he has a flashback to a phone conversation they had where he explains to her “Look, the fact is people need me. I arrive in a place and more often than not find terrible problems. Deep-seated, seemingly intractable problems and people are so grateful I come.” (pg.37) This reminded me of Jung’s theory about dreams as functioning to help us deal with problems, to give whatever mental help is needed. Every night he visits different personifications of his problems and tries to solve them, that is why only he can do it and why everyone knows he is the one who can help.

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4 Responses to “The Unconsoled”


    I agree while reading the book , you feel as if you are apart of the dream itself and then again to some extent just an onlooker. I think Ryder is the ultimate problem slover for everyone, someone is always asking him for help with the strangest requests.


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