Thursday, October 24, 2013

An Artist in the Floating World

An Artist of the Floating World

Kazuo Ishiguro

Four Stars


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?

My Review
I've finally added Kazuo Ishiguro as a favourite author. I feel I should have when I read Never Let Me Go but I have yet to finish the book review for that one. So why am I writing this one first? I think it's because the other effected in a way I couldn't quite describe but this book feels more comfortable. The more I read of Ishiguro, the more I fall in love with his form of the written word.

I'm really not so sure this book is about post war Japan as it is about frailty and the weakness of pride. Told in a conversational way with occasional flashbacks to earlier times and conversations Masuji Ono sometimes let slip the pride he felt in being a propaganda artist. It's not until he is rebuffed by a former student and reminded of his duties to assure his daughter a good marriage match that it begins to dawn on him that his memories may be faulty. He soon realizes he may also have been wrong.

This is written so subtly that you, along with Masuji Ono, arrive at this at about the same time. You are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them if you confront them. This book has lessons but none of them are taught with force. I think I like learning that way.

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