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An Artist of the Floating World [Large Print] [Paperback]

Kazuo Ishiguro
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 2001 Camden
As Japan rebuilds her cities after the calamity of World War II, the celebrated painter Masuji Ono should be enjoying a tranquil retirement. But as his memories continually return to a life and career deeply touched by the rise of Japanese militarism, a dark shadow begins to grow over his serenity.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Like figures on a Japanese screen, the painter Masuji Ono and his daughters Setsuko and Noriko are fixed in the formal attitudes that even their private conversations reflect. In the postwar 1940, the father is a relic of traditional Japan, of teahouses, geishas and patterned gardens not yet destroyed by industry and Westernized thinking. He is unable to communicate with his daughters, unsure of the propriety of his wartime nationalism yet unwilling to exchange it for what seem to him doubtful modern values. His thoughts turn to the optimism of his student days, to uncertainties and disappointments that were mitigated by his sense of a prevailing order, now nowhere apparent. He cannot fathom why his daughters treat him with a disdain that approaches rudeness, why they imply that he and his kind were responsible for the war that killed so many sons, his own among them. And so, despite the rigidity of Ishiguro's prosewhich matches Ono's inflexibilitythe once famous artist gathers pathos as he moves through the pages of a novel that is both a reminder and a warning. Ishiguro wote A Pale View of Hills.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicate and Beautiful April 6 2002
By A Customer
I've read all of Kazuo Ishiguro's books, and, while "The Remains of the Day" is my very favorite, this small book comes in a close second. It is delicate in its theme and narrative, yet its effects are quite lasting.
"An Artist of the Floating World" takes place in 1948 in a quiet town in Japan. The protagonist, Masuji Ono, once a moderately famous artist, enjoys spending his days mopping his tatami and working in his garden, although the highlight of his life are the visits from his grandson, Ichiro. As Ono enjoys his retirement from painting, he also takes the opportunity to look back on his life and reflect upon its meaning.
Ono's memories of the past are many; he has had a long journey from young, bohemian art student to retired, successful artist. In the 1930s, Ono took great pleasure in visiting the "red light" districts of Japan, but after his marriage, he settled down and devoted himself to his family and his painting.
Ono and his late wife had three children. Sadly, his only son died during the war. His loss still affects Ono greatly, as it always will. His elder daughter, Setsuko, the mother of Ichiro, is, from all appearances, happily married. His younger daughter, Neriko, has not been quite as successful where marriage is concerned. Her first marriage negotiations were broken off and she is now involved in a second attempt.
In one of the most intriguing sections of this book, Ishiguro describes the marriage negotiations that used to be routine in Japan. These negotiations are called a "miai" and involve what resembles a British high tea. First, the parents must be matched, as the two families involved must be within the same social and economic class.
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Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki in 1954 and moved to Britain at the age of five. He was awarded the OBE in 1995 and the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1998. "An Artist of the Floating World" is his second novel, was first published in 1986 and won that year's Whitbread Prize.

"An Artist of the Floating World" opens in October 1948, and is set in post-World War II Japan. The story is told by Masuji Ono, a retired artist and - once - a man of some influence and renown. His wife and son died during the war, though both his daughters survived - one is married, with a son, while Ono is conducting negotiations for his other's marraige. Over the course of the book, Ono looks back over his life and tries to deal with how his home city and the attitudes of the people around him are changing. His own career began on the workshop of Mister Moriyama, before he moved to the studio of Master Takeda - one who favoured painting the 'floating world', as the pleasure districts were known. Finally, Ono worked with Chishu Matsuda in producing artistic propoganda - which led to his position of influence leading up to and during the war. Now, in the post-war years, he notices how his own once great reputation has faltered and how attitudes towards him and his paintings have changed. There are many, for example, from the younger generations who hold him at least partly responsible for Japan's misguided foreign policy.These changes in attitude are being mirrored by the physical changes of the city. With the post-war rebuilding, whole districts are now becoming unrecognizable - Ono's own favourite 'pleasure district' is changing in this way. These changes in attitude and in the city lead Ono to look back over his life and try to come to terms with how he has lived it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars floats past Nov. 7 2001
the key word is reserved as i think everyone else pointed out, but it made no impression on me. i think as short book in this style of writing is supposed to leave traces that bloom after youve read it, but i found nothing really staying with me. after id read the end, i found myself asking no questions about what id read: the crucial events were evenly distributed through the text and described sufficiently to avoid suspense, and the larger questions of blame and guilt for 30s japan had been debated as they arose. and then it ended. maybe i was just looking for a denoument, and i appreciate that the author never intended or telegraphed such a thing. it sort of floated by and i put it down and picked up the ny daily news and went on with life. either it made no effect or there is nothing about the way the japanese dealt with each other and their pasts at that time that surprises or gives any new insights. i dont think that was his point though. good writer though: just short of overmannered.
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If you are passionate about your beliefs and if you live long enough, you, too, can be like Ishiguro's Masuji Ono: Cast adrift by the next generation, who reacts to your past triumphs with embarrassed silence.
The beliefs about which Ono was most passionate, however, revolve around his advocacy of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere of the military clique that invaded Pearl Harbor. As an art advisor to the government, he turns in his most talented pupil Kuroda to the police, who torture him before releasing him. For most of the book, Ishiguro delicately reveals in minute increments the truth about Ono's involvement in the past regime and its effect on his life.
What begins as irony softens as the novel comes to an end and we finally discover the worst is over. Ono has survived. Many of his friends have not. "Ripeness is all." The floating world of the title refers to the sweet life of bars and geishas as shown by such Japanese painters as Utamaro, but here also takes on another meaning. Whether one had followed Hitler or Pinochet or Franco or Tojo, the world is full of survivors who floated through their lives taking on the coloration of their milieu.
Ishiguro paints with delicate strokes, but there is congealed blood on his palette.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars more subtle than rotd
this is essentially the same story as remains of the day, told in the same style. it predates the more famous novel, however, so perhaps that's why i would have to say rotd is the... Read more
Published on May 9 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Boredom in Japan?
Ishiguro is a master at impregnating ordinary situations with tension. He does that in this book as well, but ultimately, there wasn't very much to be tense about. Read more
Published on Dec 30 2000 by D. C. Chase
5.0 out of 5 stars Reflections on a career
The premise of this story is similar to "Remains of the Day". It is about a man, now in his retirement, looking back on his past and rationalizing his actions in the... Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2000 by W. Poon
5.0 out of 5 stars complexity unraveled with a gentle hand
Ishiguro is a master of subtlety and subdued emotions. His leading characters seem to wear a Japanese Noh mask to conceal deep-rooted trauma. Read more
Published on June 13 2000 by lazza
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading
Like any good novel, there's many different levels for the reader to consider. From a societal point of view, Ishiguro does a wonderful job illuminating Japan's tendency to hide... Read more
Published on March 5 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars insert title here, please
This is better than Remains of the Day, only it isn't about a butler, and won't get made into a Merchant/Ivory film anytime soon. Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2000 by MUSHFEQ A KHAN
5.0 out of 5 stars Of art and responsibility
Kazuo Ishiguro's "An Artist Of The Floating World" is a beautifully written piece of work dedicated to the perenniel question of the role of an artist in society. Read more
Published on Nov. 29 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly Ishiguro's best example of his intricate writing.
No author seems able to say so much about humanity through means as fascinatingly indirect as Ishiguro's. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Brilliant. An Artist of the Floating World describes in a way no other novel has done the blame and contempt heaped upon a generation of Japanese who fought and lost the war. Read more
Published on Aug. 3 1999
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