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An artist of the floating world by Kazuo…

An artist of the floating world (original 1986; edition 1986)

by Kazuo Ishiguro

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2,770803,012 (3.82)324
Title:An artist of the floating world
Authors:Kazuo Ishiguro
Info:New York: Vintage Books, 1989, c1986.
Collections:Your library
Tags:literature, japanese, unread

Work details

An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (1986)

  1. 40
    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. 10
    The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng (bibliobibuli)
    bibliobibuli: The Gift of Rain was greatly influenced by this book.
  5. 00
    American Pastoral by Philip Roth (ateolf)
  6. 00
    The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (sturlington)
  7. 01
    The Sportswriter by Richard Ford (ateolf)

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English (75)  Spanish (2)  Greek (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  All languages (80)
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro is a deceptively simple story, that presents a knowledge of Japanese sensitivities by an essentially British author. The story takes place in the years just after the defeat of Japan. Americans have occupied the country and popular attitudes have changed. The opinion of the citizens of Japan is that those who influenced or led Japan to it’s disastrous defeat are traitors. Many approve the decision of former leaders to commit suicide to appease their guilt.

The book is told in the form of four conversations, but it becomes clear that Masuji Ono is an unreliable narrator, he excuses himself for having hazy memories and overlooks many of his implied faults but it becomes clear that he turned from his art to become influential in presenting propaganda for Japanese imperialism and the war effort. He seems unable to accept responsibility for his past actions and seemingly fails to recognize that his previous actions are having an effect on his family today.

Although the book is an easy read, the writing was quite reserved and contained. I felt that the author considered every word and phrase carefully before adding it. Personally I would have preferred a little more passion and emotion in his interpretation of issues of guilt and responsibility. This was my first book by this author and I find his writing quite intriguing so I am looking forward to reading more of his creative work. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Aug 10, 2018 |
I really love Ishiguro's writing. He writes simply but beautifully and there are always multiple layers and interpretations of his work. This book is no different. Ono, the very unreliable first-person narrator, is musing on his life in the aftermath of WWII Japan. He slowly reveals some of his actions during the war and seems to not be able to admit to his mistakes and also not be able to understand if he or those around him should/do judge his actions harshly.

Some may not like the ambiguity that the reader is left with, but I thought the open-ended nature made me consider the book and the time period more intensely than I would if everything had been answered. ( )
  japaul22 | Aug 9, 2018 |
An Artist of the Floating World has much the same flavor to it that Remains of the Day possesses. It is a first person narrative from a narrator who is obvious in his inability to be impartial or reliable. As we try to piece together the truth of this man and his life, there is a heaviness of spirit that emerges, a sense of failure that is misunderstood, and a sense that Ono, the narrator, not only misunderstands himself but also those around him.

Like much of Ishiguro’s work, this book leaves you at the end with a lot of questions you feel you must not only ask, but answer. Is it better to have acted upon your convictions and been wrong than to have done nothing at all? Are we ever as important to the world as we believe we are? When does conviction become narrow-mindedness? Are we ever right to impose our views upon others, and what price is fair for making a mistake that can be literally seen as the mistake of an entire society? And, I suppose I would add one more: Can we ever remember the past as it actually was, or must be always alter it somewhat to make the memory survivable?

Another question that I have pondered over my life is that of what makes an artist or a piece of art great? If it is declared to be great, can it then be less simply because fashions have changed, times have changed, or the subject matter becomes less palatable. I have wondered about this in regards to literature as well as painting. Sometimes it seems so arbitrary. For instance, there were paintings that were done by a student of a master (I believe it was Rembrandt, but don’t hold me to that). At any rate, they were mistaken to be the major artists’ works and declared to be masterpieces and worth millions. It was then discovered that although they were painted in the same time, they were not his work. Immediately they became second-rate and worth much less. How can this be so? If they were masterfully done, are they not still masterfully done? Are they of less value because the painter is no longer a well-recognized name or figure?
The imagery in the novel is striking. There are many scenes where the description amounts to a visual painting:

Beneath his umbrella, he was hatless and dressed in a dark raincoat. The charred buildings behind him were dripping and the remnant of some gutter was making a large amount of rainwater splash down not far from him. I remember a truck going by between us, full of building workers. And I noticed how one of the spokes of his umbrella was broken, causing some more splashing just beside his foot.

If I could paint, I would paint this man, for I can see him and I can see how broken he is and how all of his physical environment echoes his loneliness and sorrow.

In a world that is changing, that has already changed, post-war Japan, Mr. Ono is a fish out of water, a man who cannot reconcile his version of his life or his country with the version that is presented to him by his children or his society. He struggles to see why his masterpiece is now a forgery, or at the least a mistake. And, Ishiguro captures his struggle perfectly.

The best things, he always used to say, are put together of a night and vanish with the morning. What people call the floating world, Ono, was a world Gisaburo knew how to value.

Perhaps all things are temporary, fleeting, gone in an instant, and perhaps the only success or victory in life is to be able to see them momentarily and appreciate their value.

( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
An artist of the floating world is a pretty languid book: it deals with an ageing painter, Ono, who spends most of his time thinking about his past and feeling abstractly confused about the present, particularly about why his family and his former friends keep their emotional distance.

His past is Imperial Japan before and during the second World War, when he was a talented mid-level artist working within the system and supporting his country. The present is a post-war, American-dominated Japan eager to do away with its past, actively establishing a new self-image that rejects and de-emphasizes uncomfortable elements of the old one.

Ono, as supporter of the status-quo, did rather well for himself in Imperial times; his former friends and students, who sometimes chose more counter-cultural paths, generally did not. Ono, of course, fails to see where he went wrong: he never did anything wrong, never engaged in objectionable behaviour; he merely fit into society and its expectations of him, and is now vaguely annoyed at people who seem to blame him for having earned a comfortable living and a fêted career. Having retired, he no longer needs to worry about things like a roof over his head (he managed to find a lovely traditional villa that was sold dirt cheap after the war), establishing a career, or finding a spouse. And so, from his comfortable position, he’s benignly oblivious to how he comes across to others.

I read this book surprisingly quickly: it flows along quite speedily, as large sections of the book consist of the narrator reminiscing meanderingly, and fairly pleasantly, about episodes of his past. Incidents in the present, interactions with his family, and visits to former friends are quite transparently occasions where Ono’s unthinking acceptance clashes with others’ perspectives. Ishiguro has an engaging way with words, and the prose offers no obstacles. An artist of the floating world is a straightforward, guileless, smooth read. ( )
  Petroglyph | Jun 21, 2018 |
Japanese artist who was favored during WWII is an outcast after the war. ( )
  margaretfield | Jun 17, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (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 editionscalculated
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.

(summary from another edition)

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