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An Artist of the Floating World

4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Chivers; Large type edition edition (June 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0754046206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0754046202
  • Shipping Weight: 503 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,889,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 6 2002
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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 context of a society whose judgement of him is no longer as favorable as it once was. Like "Remains", the actions in question took place in the years leading to WWII. In this case, the protagonist, Masuji Ono, was a talented artist who had lent his talent in producing cultural propaganda for the Japanese imperialist movement. In the post-war years, Ono has become an outcast. Seeking to secure the marriage of his daughter, Ono begins to slowly confront his past and attempts to reconcile it with the effect that it has had on his country. Along the way, Ishiguro explores several themes which are all deftly woven into Ono's recollections : the role of the artist in society, the master-student relationship, the maturization of an artist coming into his own voice, the importance of living a life to make a difference, among others. It also highlights aspects of Japanese society, such as the obligation of the parent, the emphasis on familial reputation in marriage, the proverbial tendency to hammer on the nail which sticks out, the struggle to regain its footing in the post-war years, and the effects of American influence during that time. (Note though that Ishiguro left Japan when he was 6; thus as noted in the backcover, the "Japan" of his fiction is a country of his imagination.)
I read this book on the recommendation of a reviewer who listed this as his favorite of Ishiguro's novels to date. This book, Ishiguro's second, was short-listed for the Booker price before his third "Remains" won it. I felt much more fulfilled reading this.
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Format: Paperback
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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