Very well written. Ishiguro's first novel. "An Artist of the Floating World" (1986) explores Japanese national attitudes to the Second World War through the story of former artist Masuji Ono, haunted by his military past. It won the Whitbread Book of the Year award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction."
Set initially in late 1940's Japan, the older artist's larger story is revealed gradually through flashbacks to his younger glory days in pre-war Japan. Depending on your reading taste Ishiguro's style is either nuanced and purposeful, or "slow". If you like period literature, Ishiguro's precise focus on relationships and character should appeal to you. Conveys a great deal in only 200 pages.
"Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, on 8 November 1954. He came to Britain in 1960 and was educated at a grammar school for boys in Surrey."
First off, if you've never read Ishiguro before, I highly recommend you put this book on your "To Read" list AFTER reading "The Remains of the Day". It's Ishiguro at his best, in my opinion. This and "Never Let Me Go", however, are still great novels. Like the others, this book explores themes of dignity, loss, and the power of memory (however slective it may be) all from the perspective of a seriously flawed protagonist. The narrator is, like Stevens in "Remains of the Day", very unreliable and his memories and anecdotes are highly subjective. It serves the flow of the story in a good way, as the narrator, Ono, lives in postwar Japan, where people are judged heavily for their past. Unlike the other two Ishiguro books I've read, this one really explores relationships between men and women as well as between generations. And, like other Ishiguro books, this isn't a story so much as it is a situation. Like my mom explained Ishiguro's works, "Nothing happens, yet EVERYTHING happens." This book is perfectly paced, and the characters are well balanced so that I don't have to go back through the book to figure out who he's talking about (I hate doing that!). Good book club kinda book.
"Good writers abound - good novelists are very rare. Kazuo Ishiguro is... not only a good writer bu also a wonderful novelist." -New York Times Book review.
Winner of the 1986 Whitbread prize and shortlisted for the 1986 Booker prize, this book is about the artist Masuji Ono and is told mainly as he reminiscences about the past. It focuses on how his view of Japan as a dominating imperialist force during WWII now causes grief and difficulty for himself and his family in postwar Japan. The novel is written simply and lyrically, full of understated tension established in each dialogue, and gorgeously descriptive prose. It was even more understated compared to Ishiguro's other works, such as "Remains of the Day," or "Never Let Me Go," which I tended to enjoy a bit more. However, this is still well worth a read as Ishiguro's first novel.
Great story with subtle reminders of the past, during war times and decisions the characters have to live with. Also, family points of view that come out along the way. Beautifully written, the words flow as if written in poetry, each paragragh paints a picture.
I picked this up because I loved his near-future novel of clones being harvested for body parts! (Never Let Me Go).
Although very well done, I didn't like this book as much.
Told in the first person, the narrator, Ono, is an elderly man who, we learn, came to success and recognition as a patriotic artist during WWII. However, now that the war is over, the tides of opinion have turned, and now many that were considered to be patriots are now called traitors.
Since we only see the narrator's perspective on things, it is hard to tell how accurate his perceptions are. His daughters are shown to claim to disagree with him - but are they merely being polite? Is Ono as important as he thinks he is? (Although he keeps claiming to be humble, he certainly is not).
It's an interesting study in character and cultural attitudes, but there's not much more of a story than 'Will his daughter get married, or will the family reject the match due to Ono's reputation?'
Set in postwar Japan, Ishiguro chronicles the story of a painter whose pro-imperial Japan attitude during and after the war directly clashes with modern attitudes. Will he sacrifice his family and reputation for something he believed in, or will he capitulate to the pressures of modern Japan? Quiet, frustrating, and understated, this first novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It is quite good, but Ishiguro's best work is yet to come. This is not the work I would pick to introduce you to Ishiguro's novels, rather, pick up "Remains of the Day," or "Never Let Me Go," and explore this book later. Worth reading.
This work of art was a real treat for me. I have always been most curious of Japan and the culture, especially of this time period, covered. I feel that this is a study of not only post-war Japan but also of the interactions of parent and adult children in Japan and of a widowed father attending the traditions of all required in the attaining of a marriage, in this case, Mr Ono for his daughters Setsuko and Noriko. It also portrays the serious nature that artist can have on their life and the lives of others even their country.
So here in this small book, we have the life of Mr Ono from his childhood and young adult ages through unto that of accomplished artist, revered by some, viewed as a traitor by others. Ishiguro gives us another opportunity to look at someone's day-to-day life under the microscope and see all the little nuances that make up this thing we call Life.
Not my favorite Ishiguro, but a good book. Interesting character study. I didn't like any of the characters except Ono,the protagonist, and a couple of peripheral people. His daughters and grandson annoyed me! Interesting post WWII story.
An Artist of the Floating World is a profound, meditative novel. Like most of Japanese-British writer Kazuo Ishiguru's writing, it features an unreliable first-person narrator reflecting on his past experience. Masuji Ono is a retired painter of some renown in immediately postwar Japan who must confront his past in his country's imperialist movement as his youngest daughter enters marriage negotiations. His potential role is slowly revealed in meandering flashbacks, usually accompanied by "I'm not sure if that's exactly how it happened" provisos. The title refers to the pleasure-seeking urban lifestyle (ukiyo) which was his former teacher's subject of choice, but may also be a symbol of how values and circumstances change. I also enjoyed reading about different opinions in Japanese society which is often portrayed as monolithic. A subtle, elegant, and typically Ishiguru work.
BTW: This is Ishiguro's second novel, not the first as some reviews claim. His debut novel was A Pale View of Hills in 1982.