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Book Title: An Artist of the Floating World|
The author of the book: Kazuo Ishiguro
ISBN 13: 9780571209132
Format files: PDF, Epub, DOCx, TXT
The size of the: 2.17 MB
Edition: Faber and Faber
Date of issue: 2001
Reader ratings: 6.6
Loaded: 331 times
Read full description of the books An Artist of the Floating World:
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 systems on them; everything from our politics to baseball. Some Japanese adopted the American values wholeheartedly. His grandson, fascinated by the Lone Ranger and Popeye, exemplifies this, as well as (eventually) his two sons-in-law, both 80-hour-work-week type corporate guys. Others see the country run by greedy businessmen and their political lackeys, and conspire to bring back the old ways and even the Emperor.
There is growing urban poverty in Japan not just from the devastation but from the wave or migrants from rural areas flooding the cities. The clash of cultures is shown by this passage: “[The hotel] had been amongst the most pleasant of the Western-style hotel in the city; these days, though, the management had taken to decorating the rooms in a somewhat vulgar manner – intended, no doubt, to strike the American clientele with whom the place is popular as being charmingly ‘Japanese.’”
The main character was a teacher and an artist commissioned to draw pro-war posters – are people turning against him? When he hears of the ritual suicide of a musician who composed pro-war marches he really starts to re-think his life. Were their military and political leaders brave or stupid? Did their leaders mislead the people or did they fight for their glory? He is forced to confront his role in the war.
In Japanese culture at the time, the families of potential marriage partners “investigate” each other families. Last year the younger daughter’s engagement was broken off. No one knows why but the elderly man becomes concerned and starts going around to old friends whom he knows will be contacted in future investigations. We begin to see what his old life was like; his past artistic rivalries, triumphs and failures. A theme is the teacher-mentor (sensei) with his disciples and the inevitable breaking away, which may or may not be amicable. A lot of it is an old man’s talk over sake of bygone places and people.
The retired artist has it both ways --- he talks humbly but secretly thinks a lot of himself and has a knack for getting others to sing his praises for him. But, he also apparently has a lot of hazy memories where his recounting of events differs from that of his daughters. Is he getting alzheimer’s? Of course they don’t dare disagree directly with him, but it goes like this: “Honorable Father, with all due respect, in many of these things you say we think you are full of crap.”
(This occurs to me: Many Japanese have an obsessive attraction to Anne of Green Gables; many even come each year to the tourist venue at Canada’s Prince Edward Island to get married. Is a part of this due to the audacious mouthiness of Anne in such a culture of constraint? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/terry-d...)
The floating world of the title is the “pleasure districts;” a main one downtown and several smaller neighborhood ones scattered through the city. “…one could get drunk there with pride and dignity.” Pleasure, geishas, gambling, drink, theater; all for men only, of course. “The best things are put together of a night and vanish in the morning.” His artistic training was in a school that painted that world – reminiscent of Toulouse-Lautrec. We also learn odds and ends about Japanese art; for example, the traditional device of expressing emotion through the textiles a woman is wearing rather than through the look on her face.
Kazuo Ishiguro, the author, was born in Nagasaki in 1954, but when he was five his parents moved to England, where he was educated, so he is considered a British author. Floating World was his second novel, but Ishiguro is perhaps best known for The Remains of the Day, which won the 1989 Booker Prize. I highly recommend this book.
Photo of Japanese soldiers viewing destruction two months after the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. (from history.com)
Read information about the authorKazuo Ishiguro (カズオ・イシグロ or 石黒 一雄) 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.
His first novel, A Pale View of Hills, won the 1982 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize. His second novel, An Artist of the Floating World, won the 1986 Whitbread Prize. Ishiguro received the 1989 Man Booker prize for his third novel The Remains of the Day. His fourth novel, The Unconsoled, won the 1995 Cheltenham Prize. His latest novel is The Buried Giant, a New York Times bestseller. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2017.
His novels An Artist of the Floating World (1986), When We Were Orphans (2000), and Never Let Me Go (2005) were all shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
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