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An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo…

An Artist of the Floating World (1986)

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,329622,707 (3.83)274
  1. 30
    The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (bibliobibuli, browner56)
    browner56: The consequences of misguided devotion treated from both the British and Japanese perspectives.
  2. 20
    A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro (bibliobibuli)
  3. 10
    The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro (Booksloth)
  4. 00
    American Pastoral by Philip Roth (ateolf)
  5. 00
    The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng (bibliobibuli)
    bibliobibuli: The Gift of Rain was greatly influenced by this book.
  6. 00
    The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (sturlington)
  7. 01
    The Sportswriter by Richard Ford (ateolf)

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» See also 274 mentions

English (59)  Greek (1)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (62)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
An oddly disheartening look at an artist who played a role in Japan's war effort during the second world war, the consequences for him post-war, his family and his colleagues. Ishiguro is a powerful writer and despair/anomie is his medium here... ( )
  TomMcGreevy | Oct 28, 2015 |
The cataclysm of a time only a few years before the narrative of this book, the fiery terminal months of the Pacific War, is suppressed to embarrassed near silence by the story's narrator - a deliberate style cleverly characterising a more universal, cultural repression. The renowned / disgraced artist Masuji Ono, our narrator, settles into comfortable retirement despite losing wife and son in the war, experiencing the apparent banalities of marriage negotiation for his daughter, petty family squabbles and the joys of being a mischievous grandfather. He delivers his story, set on four widely separated days over two years in the late nineteen forties, in apparently matter of fact bland terms but alluding to recent dramatic personal events that he appears determined to overcome or ignore. The circumstances of his acquiring his reputation and hence a sought after house, as well as this leading perhaps to the breakdown of wedding plans for one of his daughter, suggests a dark past. Flashbacks triggered by events of these four days reveal some of the origins of these moral ambiguities, and create a sense of anxiety, denial and self justification in an otherwise inscrutable protagonist.

The artist's creative and political journey is never much more than alluded to throughout - perhaps a device to evoke the emotional suppression of the Japanese psyche and the confused conflict of terminally injured pride and prestige set against a new generation angrily rejecting the perceived war crimes of its predecessors. A suicide and a politically motivated arrest in two of Ono's contemporaries provides a sort of culturally-specific moral compass, but his apparent self confidence in the sometimes dubious choices he made within the political context of 1930s imperial Japan remove much of the tension from a situation where he could be seen as under threat of a similar fate.

The rapidly changing face of Japan manifests in microcosm in the Tokyo district of Arakawa, specifically the bar of Midi-Higari over the Bridge of Hesitation, as it is described shifting from forgotten neglected warren of backstreets to seedy wartime pleasure district into modernity of clean-cut office blocks and businessmen.

A languid, meandering old man's long view of a tumultuous time and its effects on the little people. Great potential but somehow lost in sentiment, vagueness and absence of narrative tension. *** ( )
  zchat04 | Oct 9, 2015 |
Author Kazuo Ishiguri presents two perspectives of his artistic protagonist's life: To Misuji Ono, there was his heroic rebellion against his father to become a painter rather than enter into commerce. His principled abandonment of his teacher and mentor to use his art to support the undertrodden. His dutiful contribution to Imperialist Japan's war efforts, earning him rightful accolades. As learned through his interaction with others, his full-throated support for Japan's burgeoning WWII propaganda machine has yielded a forced retirement and loss of prestige.

In the aftermath of the World War II, Ono's wife and son are dead. His one daughter is the subject of intense marriage negotiations with attendant investigation into the family's character. His other daughter is judiciously urging "certain precautionary measures." In all, Japan and its youth is moving on, blaming its elders for the ravages war has wrought.

In Misuji Ono's voice -- filled with pride, wistfulness, precision and self-importance -- we find hints of Mr. Stevens in "The Remains of the Day." To those looking for action packed thrills, look elsewhere. For those seeking an exquisitely written character study of interior depth, look no further. ( )
  michigantrumpet | Jul 22, 2015 |
I found this novel beautifully written. It also reminds how the best of intentions can have such unintended consequences, and how we are all so inclined to see the world through a veil of ego. ( )
  keithostertag | Jun 16, 2015 |
A subtle and fascinating portrait of a person whose times have left him behind. ( )
  dazzyj | Apr 12, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
In the second novel, An Artist of the Floating World, the teacher of discredited values is the narrator and main character. Mr. Ono is a retired painter and art master, and as in A Pale View of Hills, the story bobs about between reminiscences of different periods of the hero's life. Not that Mr. Ono is a hero: in fact, he is the least admirable and sympathetic of Ishiguro's chief characters, an opportunist and timeserver, adapting his views and even his artistic style to the party in power. So it comes that in the Thirties he deserts his first, westernizing master of painting for the strict, old-fashioned style and patriotic content of the imperialist, propaganda art.
It is not unusual to find new novels by good writers, novels with precise wording, witty phrases, solid characterizations, scenes that engage. Good writers abound - good novelists are very rare. Kazuo Ishiguro is that rarity. His second novel, ''An Artist of the Floating World,'' is the kind that stretches the reader's awareness, teaching him to read more perceptively.
The year 1945, like 1830 and 1914, now seems a natural watershed – above all in countries which experienced national defeat, social upheaval and military occupation. An Artist of the Floating World, a beautiful and haunting novel by the author of A Pale View of the Hills, consists of the rambling reminiscences of a retired painter set down at various dates in the Japan of the late Forties. Americanisation is in full swing, national pride has been humbled, and the horror of the bombed cities and the loss of life is beginning to be counted. The young soldiers who came back from the war are turning into loyal corporation men, eager to forget the Imperial past and to dedicate the remainder of their lives to resurgent capitalism. Ishiguro’s narrator, Masuji Ono, has lost his wife and son but lives on with two daughters, one of whom is married. Were it not for his anxieties over his second daughter’s marriage negotiations, Ono could be left to subside into the indolence of old age. As it is, ‘certain precautionary steps’ must be taken against the investigations to be pursued, as a matter of course, by his prospective son-in-law. The past has its guilty secrets which Ono must slowly and reluctantly bring back to consciousness.

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Kazuo Ishiguroprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Broek, C.A.G. van denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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If on a sunny day you climb the steep path leading up from the little wooden bridge still referred to around here as ‘the Bridge of Hesitation’, you will not have to walk far before the roof of my house becomes visible between the tops of two gingko trees.
If one has failed only where others have not had the courage or will to try, there is a consolation—indeed, a deep satisfaction—to be gained from this observation when looking back over one’s life. (Masuji Ono)
And yet we allow our people to grow more and more desperate, our little children die of malnutrition. Meanwhile, the businessmen get richer and the politicians forever make excuses and chatter. Can you imagine any of the Western powers allowing such a situation? (Matsuda)
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Book description
Set in post-World War II Japan, the novel is narrated by Masuji Ono, an aging painter, who looks back on his life and how he has lived it. He notices how his once great reputation has faltered since the war and how attitudes towards him and his paintings have changed. The chief conflict deals with Ono's need to accept responsibility for his past actions. The novel attempts to ask and answer the question: what is man's role in a rapidly changing environment?
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679722661, Paperback)

In An Artist of the Floating World, Kazuo Ishiguro offers readers of the English language an authentic look at postwar Japan, "a floating world" of changing cultural behaviors, shifting societal patterns and troubling questions. Ishiguro, who was born in Nagasaki in 1954 but moved to England in 1960, writes the story of Masuji Ono, a bohemian artist and purveyor of the night life who became a propagandist for Japanese imperialism during the war. But the war is over. Japan lost, Ono's wife and son have been killed, and many young people blame the imperialists for leading the country to disaster. What's left for Ono? Ishiguro's treatment of this story earned a 1986 Whitbread Prize.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:12 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

World War II is over and Japan sets about rebuilding her shattered cities. Masuji Ono, an ageing painter, looks back over his life and assesses a career that coincided with the rise of Japanese militarism.

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