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An artist of the floating world


“It’s just that in the end we turned out to be ordinary men”

An Artist of the Floating World ~ Kazuo Ishiguro 

A retired artist in Japan during the American occupation, speaks intimately to the reader. That is what the book is, it is a conversation. Masuji Ono is an aging man, who in his youth trained in the art of the “floating world” and when the war with America reached Japanese shores, turned to painting propaganda art instead. Now that the war is over, Ono carries the same burden as his peers and the men of his generation, that they encouraged and propagated a war that brought about mass destruction to his country.

Do his countrymen blame him? Have his friends deserted him? Will his past affect the future of his children? The beauty and tragedy of the book lies in the clues that Ishiguro supplies his reader, indicating that the narrator is an unreliable one, he is only fooling himself. I challenge you however, to not believe him. The book is short and yet rich with wonderful insights. An insightful read on post-war Japan and human relationships. Nearly no possible human relationship is left out from being examined – teacher/pupil, husband/wife, lovers, parent/child…

The most remarkable aspect of the book is perhaps the way Ishiguro has mastered the art of distracting the reader. The stories and continuity just sort of melt into each other, and the reader is left wondering where it all began. There were at least four times in the book when I was so deeply absorbed in the storytelling that I had no idea what the last train of thought was. There has to be some kind of sorcery involved!

Why you should read it

  • If you love the suspense of reading from an unreliable narrator’s perspective
  • For deep insights into the role of loyalty
  • For an elegant, unpretentious and neat tale

Why you shouldn’t read it

  • If you’re looking for a page-turner, unputdownable, thriller of a story
  • If you’ve read anything else by Ishiguro and were not impressed. This book is pretty much exactly like everything else he has written.