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An Artist of the Floating World

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  26,677 ratings  ·  2,378 reviews
In the face of the misery in his homeland, the artist Masuji Ono was unwilling to devote his art solely to the celebration of physical beauty. Instead, he put his work in the service of the imperialist movement that led Japan into World War II.

Now, as the mature Ono struggles through the aftermath of that war, his memories of his youth and of the “floating world”—the noct
Paperback, 206 pages
Published March 3rd 2005 by Faber and Faber (first published 1986)
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Lisa I think his daughter was incorrect. Family honour is very important in Japan and I think she was embarrassed by some of the art that he produced in th…moreI think his daughter was incorrect. Family honour is very important in Japan and I think she was embarrassed by some of the art that he produced in that earlier time. I could be wrong, but I just felt more empathy about him and the way his daughters treated him got my spidey sense tickling, for lack of a better explanation.(less)
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 ferve…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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Jim Fonseca
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Rereading this novel I felt that the award of the 2017 Nobel prize for Literature to Ishiguro was a very safe choice.

In one way Ishiguro's books are not very interesting, the narrator might be unreliable or limited, there is a concern for memory and the role of a creative intelligence in understanding and reinterpreting the past, there are issues of guilt and responsibility, and love. And one can find these elements in book after book. But he is deft and clever, a safe choice for the nobel prize
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, uk, 20-ce
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
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An Auction of Prestige

Harold Bloom in his 1975 book A Map of Misreading recast literary history as a record of the struggle between the “son” and his literary “father” (it has frequently been pointed out that Bloom is more than a bit sexist in his expression). Through a Kabbalah-like misinterpretation of one’s literary forebears, Bloom believed, a writer both builds on and destroys the work he admires most. This provokes a sort of anxiety in the writer, a struggle of wit and language with one’s
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It's hard to be humble when you're so great used to be the words on a spoon rest in my mother's kitchen, but they are oddly appropriate in relation to the narrator as well.

Now the question is, is Stevens from The Remains of the Day the Ono 2.0 (new and improved), or is it a case of the original always being better, this one having been published first? Both narrators are very prim, and proud, precise with their words--this may just be Ishiguro--and yearning for the past while defending what took
Sean Barrs
Jul 17, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1-star-reads
Ishiguro is at his absolute best when he is exploring pain. He takes mundane characters, ordinary people, and demonstrates how the present is perpetually pervaded by the past.

Memories shape us and, in some ways, define who we are. There is no moving away from them, no matter how hard we might try. And that’s what makes most of his stories so compelling, the human struggle is something he evokes in all its bitterness; yet, here he failed.

Normally when I pick up one of his novels I am drawn strai
Ahmad Sharabiani
An Artist of the Floating World, Kazuo Ishiguro

An Artist of the Floating World (1986) is a novel by Nobel Prize-winning British author Kazuo Ishiguro.

It is set in post-World War II Japan, and is narrated by Masuji Ono, an ageing painter, who looks back on his life, and how he has lived it.

He notices how his once great reputation has faltered since the war, and how attitudes towards him, and his paintings have changed.

The chief conflict deals with Ono's need to accept responsibility for his pa
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
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, 2018
There's such much drama in nothing at all! That's the genius of Ishiguro: here and in his masterpiece Remains of the Day, the actual plot is that nothing happens, and it's fuckin' gripping.

Masuji Ono is an artist. During World War II he ended up on the wrong team; he arted up some propaganda, and now that Japan's lost the war he is embarrassing. His reputation has crashed. Maybe his daughter's impending marriage will be called off, if the family discovers some of his disgraceful former attitudes
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
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of being left behind by modernity and driven by guilt, despite all our unreliable narrator thinks and says to the reader - Four Stars
It’s hard to appreciate the beauty of a world when one doubts its very validity

I reread Kazuo Ishiguro’s An Artist of the Floating World for my bookclub and the first chapter struck me as being really skillful, capturing all of the themes of the novel in just 28 pages. We follow a old man arranging the marriage of his daughter. His wife and son have died
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 19, 2010 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
This is a quiet but accomplished novel about post-war Japan; of reconciling both the state and individual of the modern world, with the crimes and convictions of the past. The novel is a thematic precursor to Remains of the Day, published three years later, which similarly uses an unreliable first-person narrative to explore what it means to have lived an honourable life. An Artist of the Floating World is a far more subdued novel, with a greater specific cultural focus, and as a result, its the ...more
Sam Quixote
Set in Japan right after WW2, Masuji Ono, a retired artist, looks back on his life and career from when he was a celebrated painter in the pre-war years to the social pariah he now is in the post-war years thanks to his ties to imperialist Japan. Doesn’t sound like much of a story, does it? It isn’t!

I remember really enjoying Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, so much so that I read it twice, so I don’t know why I’ve never read anything else by the guy. I decided to pick up the novel he w
Sidharth Vardhan
"And if on reaching the foot of the hill which climbs up to my house, you pause at the Bridge of Hesitation and look back towards the remains of our old pleasure district, if the sun has not yet set completely, you may see the line of old telegraph poles – still without wires to connect them – disappearing into the gloom down the route you have just come, And you may be able to make out the dark clusters of birds perched uncomfortably on the tops of the poles, as though awaiting the wires alo
These are the recollections of Masuji Ono, an ageing painter taking stock of his past and the decisions informing it, especially during the Pacific War.

Surprise Attack of Naval Paratroops at Manado, MIYAMOTO Saburo, 1943


Throughout, you are following Ono's loose thoughts about himself, his family, his pupils, the past.
In a sense, the title 'An Artist of the Floating World' is somewhat self-explanatory, as Ono is constantly drifting from one memory to another and back to the present (c
Jan 19, 2009 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
Mar 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 fatefu ...more
Jason Pettus
THE GREAT COMPLETIST CHALLENGE: In which I revisit older authors and attempt to read every book they ever wrote

Currently in the challenge: Margaret Atwood | Christopher Buckley | Daphne Du Maurier | Michel Houellebecq | John Irving | Kazuo Ishiguro | Shirley Jackson | Bernard Malamud | VS Naipaul | Tim Powers | Philip Roth | John Updike | Kurt Vonnegut

Now that I've read what is arguably Nobel-winner Kazuo Ishiguro's most famous novel, 1989's The Remains of the Day, it was fascinating to go back
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
Gary Guinn
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Memory and the heart. Such fragile things on which to build our notion of ourselves. The old prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things . . . Who can understand it?” Memory is surely at least as deceitful as the heart. Both memory and the heart seem to be at the mercy of the transient, ephemeral world of human life. And they are central to the fiction of Japanese/British writer Kazuo Ishiguro.

An Artist of the Floating World is a beautiful emotional set piece. Following Wor
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Masuji Ono, the narrator of An Artist of the Floating World, fights a constant battle against himself. Ono must emotionally cope with not only the guilt he feels from his past participation in injurious governmental activities, but also the pains of ageing and the loneliness he experiences through the death of family members and his alienation from the new generation. Ono writes as a form of self-therapy. His tactic is to postpone the recognition of his past and spend as much time as possible av ...more
An Artist of the Floating World has much the same flavor to it that Remains of the Day possesses. It is a first person narrative from a narrator who is obvious in his inability to be impartial or reliable. As we try to piece together the truth of this man and his life, there is a heaviness of spirit that emerges, a sense of failure that is misunderstood, and a sense that Ono, the narrator, not only misunderstands himself but also those around him.

Like much of Ishiguro’s work, this book leaves yo
Barry Pierce
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Sep 25, 2009 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;
Katie Lumsden
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this. Powerful, subtle and complex, like many other Ishiguro novels this examines memory and the insufficiency of it.
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Compared to Ishiguro's other works An Artist of the Floating World is somewhat slight, both in terms of characterisation and plot. As with other novels by Ishiguro we have a narrator reminiscing about their past, attention is paid to the act of recollecting, and the unreliability of one's memory. Set in post-World War II Japan An Artist of the Floating World is narrated by Masuji Ono, an ageing artist, looks back to his career, in particular, to the role he played
Aug 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
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!
Ani Lacy
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is difficult to describe. What is it about? An old man, an artist, a young man, grandchildren and satisfaction. Also regret and the courage to live a life you can be proud of.
Mar 15, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, might-read
A large part of how you feel about this book may depend on the order in which you read Ishiguro’s books. The author is on record, I believe, as saying that for his first three novels he essentially wrote the same book in three different settings. So, if, like me, you come to this as the last of those three, there is always a feeling of “deja lu” because of its similarities to other books by the same author. I read this book aware of this and, if truth be told, my main motivation for reading was ...more
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Sir Kazuo Ishiguro (カズオ・イシグロ or 石黒 一雄), OBE, FRSA, FRSL is a British novelist of Japanese origin and Nobel Laureate in Literature (2017). 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.


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