Updated on May 19, 2015
13. ‘An Artist of the Floating World’ by Kazuo Ishiguro
This is my third Ishiguro book and probably my least favourite. It has the same calm, melancholic voice that is so characteristic of Ishiguro, but I didn’t find the premise of Floating World as engaging as Never Let Me Go or The Remains of the Day.
Masuji Ono, the narrator, is now an old man, looking back on his life as a famous artist in Japan. He reflects on his childhood, his tutelage under the artist Mori-san, and the career that catapulted him into fame (and infamy). During the chaos of the war years in the 1940s, Ono becomes involved with shady ideologies and, although he has now regained his good reputation, his past threatens to jeopardise his daughter’s marriage plans.
I didn’t find the characters in this book particularly engaging: Ono’s grandson Ichiro was probably the most interesting, but there’s a fine line between writing a child who is confident and one who is irritating. Also, I usually love Ishiguro’s subtlety but here it felt a little too overdone; the ‘problem’ from Ono’s past is referred to only very obliquely, so I felt like I missed out on a big revelation. All in all the story kind of drifted past me – it didn’t have the usual heartwrenching impact of Ishiguro’s other novels and I was really hoping it would.
Still, this is a pleasant book with some interesting ideas. The ‘floating world’ of the title is a particularly beautiful theme: it is the transient world of the night, laughter, drinking and pleasure, and one artist’s struggle between the ease of decadence and his desire to change the world.
If you liked my review, why not read the book and let me know what you think?