“Artist of the Floating World” by Kazuo Ishiguro


This is the second novel written by Ishiguro and the third book of his that I’ve read and with most authors by then you get too familiar with the writing style and mostly never end up picking a fourth. But with Ishiguro I can safely say there has been no fixed pattern. The first- Nocturnes was a collection short stories set in Europe, Never Let Me Go was a dystopic novel based in UK and this one is a narration in Japan post 2nd World War.

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I was most struck by the narration style of this book, perhaps I was trying to establish some familiarity with the earlier works I’ve read, but could fine none. The book is narrated by a retired artist and instead of divisions into chapters the book is divided into 4 months- Aug 1948, Oct 1948, Apr 1949 and Nov 1949. The narration of the story is typically how an old man would narrate his life incidents, slipping into the reverie of his past life, glorifying his past with his memory failing on the incidents he would like to suppress like the reason for his rift with his student- Kuroda. He is saddened by the Americanization of general public opinion that has estranged his daughters, friends and colleagues. He has a special relationship with his grandchild whose opinions have not become rigid but to his great dismay are getting influenced by American movies and cartoons.

The book starts with a detailed description of his house that is so picturesque that the reader can’t help fall in love with it and aspire to live there. Interestingly the deed of the house was made on the basis of highest prestige and not the highest money bid.

Ono’s paintings have been put away or destroyed multiple times. His father had burnt them when he was 11 which had only increased his resolve of becoming a painter. His art teacher had put them away when he had broken away from his teachings and had expressed his own painting style. And then they were put away after the war as his works came to be regarded as treachery that had pushed Japan to war. People also expect him to suicide to apologize for the war, like many others. A very extreme form of moral policing, right?

I also love his description of the Floating World and the Hesitation Bridge. The Floating World is the transient night world of prostitutes and other worldly pleasures that made men happy for the night and each morning the world would disappears, making one doubt its existence. Ono’s teacher tries to capture this transience in his paintings and so does he initially till he develops his own style.

The Hesitation Bridge separated the Pleasure District from the main residential area and on the bridge men often hesitated on which way to go.

What the book misses are images of few of his paintings. Although Ishiguro does describe them so much in detail that you can easily picture them in your mind. But the artist in me longs to see the works. I will perhaps paint them soon!!

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A dreamer. An intellectual, spoiled by the world of literature trying to find sanity through traveling and expression through Visual Art and writing! Hope you like my expressions on this blog!!

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Posted in Book Review
2 comments on ““Artist of the Floating World” by Kazuo Ishiguro
  1. Jasmine says:

    I’m so glad we both read this book and I am so glad to read your review. let us start reading again.
    It is terrible to avoid a source of joy when we have identified it!

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