An Artist Of The Floating World – Kazuo Ishiguro

March 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

First published in 1986


I hadn’t realised until just a couple of minutes ago that I had read that many of Ishiguro’s books. This is his 4th novel that I’ve read, which is plenty considering that he’s only just published his 7th not too long ago. It’s been a long time since the last time I picked up one of his books, so my memory of reading him is a little vague at best. I remember feeling that I had liked him enough to want to read more, but not enough to find myself so completely drawn in.

An Artist is a book about growing old. It’s about a drastic change that happens in a country on a large scale, and how this change can alter so many little details in all our individual lives. And how, however subtle our own changes, we are able to affect the people around us.

The artist in An Artist is a man called Masuji Ono. He’s old now as he’s telling us his story, going back to the time when he was still young and fresh, full of his own ideas about what art was, and the ideals of a nation’s pride. He tells us about his two daughters, detailing their marriages, their husbands, and how their families affect them in ways that they perhaps cannot see for themselves.

Then he continues to tell us about the time when he was still training under a teacher, about the man who changed his whole perspective, and how later he himself became a teacher to many. He told us about the war that came upon them (this is WWII), and the changes that came to this little corner of his world. He tells us about the choices he made, how they were influenced, and how those choices in turn influenced others. He talked about the decisions he made, his uneasy relationship with his daughters and their husbands, and his own feelings towards his past.

In the book, the “floating world” describes that realm of pleasure, of night entertainment with drinks and intellectual discussions of worldly things. But in a sense, I felt like the world Masuji Ono was living in itself, his own life, was a floating world. It was as if his thoughts were just floating by, held down by nothing but a soft, gravitational pull that prevented them from disappearing altogether. The storytelling ran off into tangents, but it was never rushed – in fact, it felt more like it drifted off into tangents, instead of running.

This book was written in such a way that it felt exactly like an old man recounting his memories, reliving his past life and decisions, and telling it to us like our grandparents would. It was soothing, it was dreamy, it was like I had the exclusive privilege of touching threads of memory.

I think there’s something about Japanese authors – and to a certain extent, Asian authors in general – that allows them to create such quiet pieces of literature. There’s no force, no push, no jerking of any kind. They simply take you by the hand, and quietly, slowly, lead you into the world that they’ve created.


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