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An Artist of the Floating World

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  12,473 Ratings  ·  994 Reviews
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.
Paperback, 206 pages
Published 2001 by Faber and Faber (first published 1986)
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Karl Ono is a relic of pre-WW2 Japan. Imperial Japan had an incredibly insular and nationalistic culture during, and prior to WW2. He, like many, was…moreOno is a relic of pre-WW2 Japan. Imperial Japan had an incredibly insular and nationalistic culture during, and prior to WW2. He, like many, was fervently proud and dedicated to Japan's cause. As an artist, he produced propaganda.
After Japan lost the war, their cultural attitude shifted. Those clinging to imperialist ideas were often shunned and ostracized. There are scenes in the book in which Ono's former students actively distance themselves from him. He's respected as an institution of the past, but practically a pariah in the current world. Ono resents that the generation of young men whom he taught, who also created pro-imperialist propaganda, won't own up to their involvement. He has the luxury, being retired, of judging them, but their generation has to deny their involvement if they have any hope of respectable careers and lives in postwar Japan.
Then there's the next generation, that of Ono's grandson. Ichiro was born a few years before the end of the war. He's growing up in a world where Western culture is prevalent. He's obsessed with American television, movies, cartoons and comics. His generation is the product of a new culture, one to which Ono can't relate.
Japan went through a relatively quick period of dramatic change, its culture in flux, its generations split by dramatic cultural shifts. (less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jim Fonseca
Jun 03, 2017 Jim Fonseca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-authors
Did you ever wonder what it was like in Japan after its defeat in WW II? So here we are in Japan in 1947. Our main character, an older man and an artist, lost his wife in a stray bomb that also destroyed much of his home, and he also lost his only son in the war. But he still has two daughters; one married with a son, and one trying to get married, but she’s getting a bit old for that time and culture; she’s past her mid-20’s.

Japan was occupied by the United States, of course, and we imposed our
Mar 24, 2011 William1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 20-ce, uk
Second reading. The gist of this novel is the narrator's culpability for his patriotic actions during the war with the U.S. Set in a suburb of Tokyo during the American occupation, the narrator, Masuji Ono, is now surrounded by those who blame him for Japan's disastrous gamble on war and those like himself. Ono's generation was that of the old men cheerleading for war. And there can be no question about his complicity. In his youth he trained as an artist of the demimonde or "floating world," bu ...more
If you've already read The Remains of the Day, chances are your enjoyment of An Artist of the Floating World will be greatly curtailed. And that is the sheer tragedy of this book.

Replace Stevens with Masuji Ono. Replace a tottering England with a war-ravaged, financially unstable Japan and insert Ishiguro's penchant for allegory. And TADA you have An Artist of the Floating World.

This book had potential to be a very emotionally charged commentary on a nation rebuilding itself from its charred (at
Michael Finocchiaro
An Artist of the Floating World is a nice pleasant read. Although Ishiguro had not lived through this period and lives in England, he evokes the languid rhythms of life in post-war Japan with panache. His protagonist addresses the reader in the second person over the entire book, telling us of his career as a propagandistic artist of pre-war Imperial Japan and his retirement. There is a marked similarity between Oji and the protagonist of The Remains of the Day, in that each had acted in morally ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 19, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Booker Shortlist; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010)
I thought Kazuo Ishiguro was not one of the authors who do not rewrite themselves. This book proved me wrong. He is like many other authors who write at least two novels with similar plot, themes and even characters. They just change some aspects of the novel like settings, climax or maybe the names of the places and people. I was disappointed but the disappointment was not enough for me to give this 1 star because the book still has all those Ishiguro's trademarks that made me fall in love with ...more
Jan 19, 2009 Selena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
After reading Never Let Me Go, I swore that I would read more of Ishiguro's work. It was fate that I ran across An Artist of the Floating World at my Library. The novel isn't a particularly long one - coming in at a mere 206 pages. It was a breeze to get through.

I'm noticing that with Ishiguro's narrators so far, the tone is very conversational. Throughout this book, the protagonist Masuji Ono, a retired artist, speaks intimately to the reader

Throughout the book, Masuji Ono, the protagonist, spe
Aug 10, 2009 Whitaker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who finds this review meaningful...
In this way and that I tried to save the old pail
Since the bamboo strip was weakening and about to break
Until at last the bottom fell out.
No more water in the pail!
No more moon in the water!
Mar 17, 2010 Praj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ki
Each time my eyelids bowed down to the devil of grave drowsiness, the concave depths displayed a lean, modest shadowy figure standing on the Bridge of Hesitation; the wrinkles on his forehead becoming deeper , trembling with culpability, wishing for Noriko’s miai to be an incessant success. The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow">Jerome K Jerome was accurate with his analysis of the solitude of an idle mind bringing generous thoughts. There I was, nursing an acute bronchial cough cursing the fat ...more
Steady, measured, gentle, sure-handed, slightly seductive.

Ishiguro's narrator is fooling himself for sure throughout his tale, but you almost believe him.

Some wonderfully graceful pacing, with the situations and pages melting into one another, which as one reviewer here remarked, makes a "floating world" all its own.

It sort of reminds me of the thing said about Flaubert's "Sentimental Education"- the main theme is largely heard in the background. For Flaubert it was revolutionary upheaval in mid
May 17, 2015 Sawsan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
الحرب العالمية الثانية لها تأثير كبير على الأدب الياباني
يكتب كازو إيشيجورو عن التحولات في الفكر الياباني بعد الحرب
ورأي الشباب عن مسئولية الجيل القديم عن الحرب والهزيمة
رسام متقاعد آمن بالحرب ودعمها بفنه يُعيد تقييم مواقفه وأحداث حياته الماضية
بعد الأذى الذي تعرضت له بلده وتغيُر العالم سياسيا وثقافيا
الكاتب يمر في الرواية على موضوعات مختلفة منها تأثر الشباب الياباني بالثقافة الأمريكية بعد الحرب
التقاليد اليابانية في الزواج والتعاملات اليومية, وسرعة وجدية خطوات النهوض والتعافي في اليابان بعد الهزيمة
Barry Pierce
There's enjoyable monotony and then there's monotonous monotony. This novel falls into the latter category. Disappointingly. I personally think Ishiguro suffers the sophomore struggle with this novel. Eh, I don't know. This one just wasn't for me. It didn't entice me at all. I was just reading about these characters doing things and that was really it. However it written very well. But that's expected from Ishiguro.
Sep 25, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Amy Pinto-Walsh
Shelves: fiction

With this my reading of Ishiguro's canon is complete. So he'd better be working on something new.

The novel is set in postwar Japan. The first person narrator, Mr. Ono, is a retired artist reflecting back on his career and life. He is widowed, and his son was killed in a minefield in Manchuria. He has two adult daughters and one grandson. As he explains his daughter Noriko's attempts to find a husband, we are first led to believe that her lack of success is simply a result of unfortunate timing;
Oct 05, 2016 Pantelis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The likes of you and me, Ono, when we look back over our lives and see they were flawed, we're the only ones who care now"

An old man's guilt is absolute loneliness, ultimate insomnia...
I liked the theme of the book, the setting, and what it is trying to say. I even enjoyed the writing and the details of post-war life in Japan sporadically. I just found the book in its whole rather boring. I really enjoy this style of narrative in films and Japanese films like in Cha no Oji or Tenten, which are good examples of this style. But it didn't work well as a novel for me.

I am not completely sure what the author is trying to say either. Was it an apology for Japan's excesses during the
What a rich and marvelous novel. And what emotional depth Ishiguro displays.... I not only thoroughly enjoyed this book, I admired it. Highly recommended
Mar 22, 2017 Dacko rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sitnice koje se pamte, upečatljive scene, opipljiva atmosfera, virkanje u tuđu kulturu - čist čitalački užitak, a opet, nije to 'moja' knjiga, neka koju bih čitala dva puta ili nagovarala druge da je čitaju, što mi je preduslov za više zvezdica. I znam da sam surovija prema mejnstrim knjigama nego prema žanrovskim, valjda od ovih drugih imam manja očekivanja i ako me zabave - to je to, dok prve poredim sa mnogo jakim prethodnicima, što nije fer, ali eto.

Važna napomena: ako čitate u prevodu (Dere
mai ahmd

تدور هذه الرواية البديعة حول رسام متقاعد يعيش مع ابنته نوريكو ويقضي أيامه في البيت في إصلاح حديقة البيت يسترجع أيامه الماضية أثناء الحرب وما بعدها
لديه إيمانه الخاص بالمثل والقيم التي شكلت مبادئه الخاصة ومواقفه أثناء الحرب إلا أن بعض هذه المواقف وقفت حاجزا بين سعادة ابنته وبين المضي قدما في عالم متغير ، مع محاولات الرسام لتصحيح الأوضاع تتدفق ذكريات الماضي بحلوها ومرّها ، من خلال أحداث الرواية يستطلع القارىء على تفاصيل كثيرة بشأن الحياة في اليابان وعن فن الرسم وتأثيرات المعلمين ، عن المحاسبة الأخ
Sep 18, 2011 J. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, ishiguro
His influence over us was not, of course, confined merely to the realms of painting. We lived throughout those years almost entirely in accordance with his values and lifestyle, and this entailed spending much time exploring the city's 'floating world' -- the night-time world of pleasure, entertainment and drink which formed the backdrop for all our paintings. I always feel a certain nostalgia now in recalling the city centre as it was in those days; the streets were not so filled with the noise ...more
Nov 13, 2007 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-written story of an aging Japanese artist who looks back on his career and his role in the "patriotic" movement toward imperialism and war. He struggles to understand the changing Japanese culture, the shunting aside of the older generation that is distrusted by pro-American factions, the attitudes of his two daughters and grandson, and his own faulty memories. There are wonderful insights into post-war Japan, the role of loyalty, the struggles between teacher and pupil. He is egotistical ...more
Seth T.
Nov 30, 2009 Seth T. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is, so far, my second-favourite Ishiguro book. Even if it wasn't, as advertised, a novel.

An Artist of the Floating World is the fifth of Kazuo Ishiguro's works I've read. I've been gradually working my way through since last year. I only have A Pale View of the Hills and Remains of the Day Left. I'm saving Remains of the Day for last—as it's the one that bought him all the acclaim. I'm almost certain to be disappointed, I guess. I'd almost have to be.

But that's neither here nor there becaus
Evan Leach
Written between Ishiguro’s first novel (A Pale View of Hills) and his most famous (The Remains of the Day), An Artist of the Floating World borrows elements from both. The setting of postwar Japan is the same one featured in his first book, while the story and style are strongly reminiscent of The Remains of the Day (in a sense, this is an adaptation of The Remains of the Day from the master’s perspective). The finished product lies somewhere between Hills and Remains of the Day , but given tha ...more
Jul 06, 2015 Carlo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredible gem of a book. I’m simply at loss for words and therefore this review would probably be a never-ending paean to the work. How is it that nobody is reading this and Ishiguro is known for his dreadful Never Let Me Go is beyond me! Can't imagine how I wouldn’t have known about this if it were not for Guardian’s series of 100 best novels in English.

The main theme in this book is guilt and its relationship with time. When the moral norms change quickly, there bound to be some heavy fi
Aug 29, 2009 Karol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know very little about post-WWII Japan, and all that I knew came from the perspective of Americans. It was fascinating, therefore, to read this story from a Japanese author who was born in the post-war era. It is about an artist who gained a measure of respect and renown while working as a loyal supporter of the Japanese emperor. After the war, he struggles with the changes in Japanese society as well as his loss of esteem in society - particularly among the younger generation who tended to bl ...more
La producción literaria de Kazuo Ishiguro es escasa, cuenta tan solo con siete novelas. Tarda varios años en escribir y publicar un nuevo libro, tal vez porque le gusta poner un cuidado especial en todo lo que escribe, obviando las presiones a las que debe ser sometido por las editoriales, y dejando a un lado la fama y el prestigio que ha ido adquiriendo con su obra, de los que podría aprovecharse como hacen otros autores para vender cualquier “cosa” que se les pasa por la cabeza. Como el protag ...more
Sep 21, 2013 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dark-orange-band
Ishiguro's artist of the floating world discusses with his grandson the life of a composer of popular wartime marches:

"'He wasn't a bad man. He was just someone who worked very hard doing what he thought was for the best. But you see, Ichiro, when the war ended, things were very different. The songs Mr Naguchi composed had become very famous, not just in this city, but all over Japan. They were sung on the radio and in bars. And the likes of your Uncle Kenji sang them when they were marching or
Aravena Muhammad Yesa
Buku Ishiguro kedua yang saya baca. Membaca karya sensei yang satu ini rasanya seperti... sensasi saat belajar berenang. Awalnya terasa dingin dan tidak bersahabat, tetapi begitu ‘ritme’nya sudah didapat, raga dan jiwa pun serasa menyatu dengan riak air yang menghanyutkan secara pelan tapi pasti terus mati tenggelam deh.

Kisah dibingkai melalui perspektif Masuji Ono (sang ‘seniman di dunia awang-awang’ yang disebut di judul) dan terbagi menjadi beberapa periode narasi: Oktober 1948, April 1949, N
Nov 20, 2012 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, reviewed
Ishiguro is the master of creating an unreliable narrator. I noticed this in his novel “When We Were Orphans” as well - There are slight discrepancies in what the main character tells us and how he interprets the events surrounding him. Ishiguro has a delicate method of making the reader aware of these small problems and contradictions without constantly beating us over the head. It’s all a matter of nuance, not power.

This narrative viewpoint is part of what makes this novel so striking. The sto
I read this book in a rush just this afternoon, I loved it. And now I'm going to try and say what I thought of it before I cheat and read other reviews! There might be some mild spoilers but as little actually happens they can't be too bad.

Basically, the main character Ono was a very talented and famous artist who painted pictures promoting (and possibly was involved with planning & carrying out) the changes in Japan before WW2... and now he's dealing with the guilt. Lots of other people wh
I finished this book on a very blue note. The narrator has a great amount of emotion built up that he refuses to acknowledge, and keeps a 'stiff upper lip'; acting almost normal despite the fact the world he once knew and loved has been completely eradicated by the war and those adapting to the aftermath. Even worse is he sees himself as being at fault for the destruction, although truthfully, as an artist he couldn't have had that much impact on Japan's decisions concerning the war. (view spoil ...more
Jun 21, 2010 Isabelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am finding it somewhat difficult to talk about this novel, and I am not sure why... The plot is not that complex, the novel is modest in length, the language and style are limpid... So what is it?
It has got to be the intricacies and subtleties of the main character we only get to know a very little at a time, while he pieces together fragments of his past for us, almost reluctantly.
Of course, the difficulty is compounded by our meager Western understanding of Japan's imperialist bid on Asia cu
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Kazuo Ishiguro (カズオ・イシグロ or 石黒 一雄) is a British novelist of Japanese origin. His family moved to England in 1960. Ishiguro obtained his Bachelor's degree from the University of Kent in 1978 and his Master's from the University of East Anglia's creative writing course in 1980. He became a British citizen in 1982. He now lives in London.

His first novel, A Pale View of Hills, won the 1982 Winifred Ho
More about Kazuo Ishiguro...

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“When you are young, there are many things which appear dull and lifeless. But as you get older, you will find these are the very things that are most important to you.” 32 likes
“An artist's concern is to capture beauty wherever he finds it.” 27 likes
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