ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kazuo Ishiguro is a British novelist, screenwriter, and short-story writer. Born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954, Ishiguro moved to England with his family in 1960. He has won numerous literary awards, including the Booker Prize for his novel, The Remains of the Day, in 1989 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017.
Ishiguro’s works stand out for their elegant prose, his exploration of memory and identity, and his interest in how individuals come to terms with the past. His novels often feature unreliable narrators and examine the complexities of human relationships. His other notable works include A Pale View of Hills, An Artist of the Floating World, Never Let Me Go, and The Buried Giant.
Ishiguro’s writing has been praised for its emotional depth, subtle humor, and his ability to explore complex themes with grace. His works have been adapted for film and television, including the critically acclaimed 1993 film adaptation of The Remains of the Day.
SYNOPSIS (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)
An Artist of the Floating World is a captivating novel that explores the complexities of identity, remembrance, remorse, and redemption, all unfolding in the post-World War II Japan. The title serves as an apt metaphor for the fleeting nature of life, and it has a deep meaning in the context of the aftermath of war. The story is narrated from the perspective of Masuji Ono, a retired painter who is struggling to make sense of his past actions and find his place in a new society that has already rejected him. His past has affected his family as well, something that makes him question himself.
As the story unfolds, Ono reflects on his life through flashbacks. He reminisces about the “floating world”, a place of beauty and pleasure where he and his fellow artists painted dancers, bar women, and geishas. However, it dawns on him that he had turned his back on the world and had devoted his art to propaganda, which contributed to Japan’s defeat in the War. Ono feels the weight of society’s disapproval, but he also recognizes that he was part of a generation that led Japan down the wrong path. He struggles to process his guilt and tries hard to find a way to reconcile his present and past. He even publicly apologizes to all those he has wronged. Ono finds redemption in their empathy and understanding.
An Artist of the Floating World also delves deep into the ephemeral nature of memory and how treacherous it can get. This is because context and perspective, both of which are susceptible to change over time, influence our memories of the past.
The novel reaches its climax as the wounds of a ravaged country seem to heal with time and Ono’s family life finally takes a turn for the better. He resigns himself to the reign of the present generation and gets over the moral quandaries that had been haunting him.
WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT AN ARTIST OF THE FLOATING WORLD
The language used throughout the book is eloquent and profound. The story also beautifully reveals the extent to which artistic expression can influence and shape the society. All in all, An Artist of the Floating World is a thought-provoking exploration of the human condition and the impact of our actions on ourselves and others.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER ABOUT AN ARTIST OF THE FLOATING WORLD
The book is subtle enough for the layman to understand it without being aware of its backdrop. This subtlety also helps tone down the atrocities of the war. As a result, it gets really hard to find fault with a work as impeccable as this.
If on a sunny day you climb the steep path leading up from the little wooden bridge still referred to around here as ‘the Bridge of Hesitation’, you will not have to walk far before the roof of my house becomes visible between the tops of two gingko trees.
In any case, there is surely no great shame in mistakes made in the best of faith. It is surely a thing far more shameful to be unable or unwilling to acknowledge them.
An Artist of the Floating World is a must-read for anyone who enjoys a character-driven historical fiction. That said, this is a timeless classic that everyone can and should try.
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A reverential admirer of words, Madhu loves watching them weave their bewitching magic on cozy afternoons.