I’m beginning to suspect that the dreamlike events and particularly the protagonist’s somewhat unusual reaction to them may be a bit of unreality thrown into the reality, or perhaps a play on time. While Ryder appears to slowly remember Boris being his son and some conversations with Sophie and other tidbits, there is no corresponding acknowledgement on the part of the characters to his behavior to conclude a case of amnesia.
There are other things that Ishiguro pulls on his readers here, and while I’m the first one to cheer on the rulebreaker spirit, this is both one of the biggest no-nos in writing as well as a confusing factor that appears more like poor writing than careful planning:
I watched her lead Stephan through a small and tidy front parlour, through a second doorway and down a shadowy corridor decorated on either side with little framed water-colours. The corridor ended at miss Collins’s drawing-room–a large L-shaped affair at the back of the building. The light here was low and cosy, and at first glance the room looked expensively elegant in an old-fashioned way. On closer inspection, however, I could see much of the furniture was extremely worn… (p. 56)
What’s wrong with this ? Well, the protagonist, this first person narrator, has been left sitting in the car. After this, we are allowed to witness the entire scene and dialogue between Stephan and Miss Collins, even as Stephan has confirmed his passengers waiting outside. And this:
While Stephan had been speaking, Miss Collins had risen from her seat and moved slowly over to her fireplace. She now remained standing quite still for several seconds, one hand resting on the mantelpiece as though to steady herself. When eventually she turned to Stephan again, I saw that her eyes had become moist. (p. 61)
So this is not merely the narrator’s retelling of the scenario as was perhaps told to him by Stephan, but he claims to see it as it is happening. In the very next paragraph, we are assured that yes, we’ve read it right and not missed something:
Miss Collins sipped her sherry thoughtfully. She seemed about to reply, but just at this point I heard Boris shift behind me in the back of the car. (p. 61)
Yes, there’s some funny stuff going on here and it’s not just about a man who has forgotten a few things about his life. Previously, as he walked through the alleyways following Sophie to her apartment, he ran into and spent some time walking with an old school-chum who just happened to be walking these same narrow alleys.
There is metaphor and symbolism though I haven’t gotten yet the clear meanings. The metaphor, I feel, is in the actions and characters and their plights. The symbolism is in the setting, the hotel, the emphasis on Old Town, the courtyard diner, and the alleyways are all so pointedly described. Ishiguro has even in the scenario described above, made the setting of the apartment with it’s L-shape and location at the back of the house an important part of the event.
Close reading here is vital, or useless. One or the other.