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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Unflawed
It is a shame that this book, Ishiguro's second, is still less well read than "The Remains Of The Day." This one says more in a much tinier space, and is elegant, elliptical and intelligent beyond the call of duty.
In "An Artist Of The Floating World" (only when you read the book will you know the proper way to place emphasis on the title)...
Published on 25 Feb 2001

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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Japanese 'Remains of the Day'
`An Artist of the Floating World' is basically the Japanese version of Ishiguro's Booker winning novel `The Remains of the Day'. As in The Remains of the Day the narrator is an unreliable witness with the shadow of pre-war culpability looming over his head. And as with The Remains of the Day the quiet individual has been drawn into the political events which transformed...
Published on 30 July 2007 by Sam J. Ruddock


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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Unflawed, 25 Feb 2001
By A Customer
It is a shame that this book, Ishiguro's second, is still less well read than "The Remains Of The Day." This one says more in a much tinier space, and is elegant, elliptical and intelligent beyond the call of duty.
In "An Artist Of The Floating World" (only when you read the book will you know the proper way to place emphasis on the title) Ishiguro tells the story of a Japanese man, Ono, who has something to hide, something to do with the war... To say more would be to give away the plot, and part of the pleasure of the book - as fans of "Remains" or "The Unconsoled" will know - is in seeing how much you can work out for yourself from how little Ishiguro tells you.
Incidentally, the book introduces Ishiguro's brilliant facility for children's speech, with Ono's grandson (going on to perfect this technique with Boris in "The Unconsoled") - quite the best representation I have read of the illogicality, intemperance and, well, childishness of the way children speak.
A flawless gem, a buoyant confection, and a seemingly effortless work of art.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful insight, 24 Jun 2009
By 
C. Martin (N.I.) - See all my reviews
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I bought 'An Artist Of The Floating World' after spotting the title amongst a list of the greatest books of all time and I wasn't disappointed. Ishiguro leads the reader through a floating world of fractured prose narrated by the main character, the acclaimed artist Ono. As he recounts the events surrounding his youngest daughter's marriage negiotations, with various disgressions along the way, he informs the reader of his own experiences as an aspiring artist and his part in the war.
What I really enjoyed about this book was the narrator's voice. I could almost imagine myself sitting in a secluded bar with Ono telling me his life story, it is such a personal tone that Ishiguro employs. The story unfolds slowly and the realisation that Ono is in some ways considered a traitor to the state is revealed through subtle prose.
There are several moments in the story where you realise that history is repeating itself, as Ono reflects on his actions as a youth the reader will notice a similarity in those of youths that Ono encouters during his retirement.
Overall I enjoyed the book but gave it four out of five because I found Ono's self-effacing tone a little tiresome towards the end. His humility was a little difficult to believe (and this was probably Ishiguro's intention, who's to say?) and I wasn't sure if I was reading an unreliable narrator or not.
It is a quietly beautiful meditation on the effects of Japan after the war and I highly recommend it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Subtle and elegant, 25 Jun 2008
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Written in Ishiguro's trademark style, this is an elegant, understated and subtle novel. Narrated in a somewhat rambling and not always reliable way by an elderly artist, this is the story of a society rebuilding itself after the horrors of war. The narrator, a former propagandist for Japan during World War II, must come to terms with his own sense of guilt and try to make sense of the sweeping changes brought in by a new generation.

Ishiguro captures the essence of Japan well, and does a good job of conveying the underlying values and social niceties of a society very different from the modern western one. The narrator is a well constructed character - realistic and far from perfect, and throughout the book the reader comes to sympathise with him to some degree. The other characters, particularly his disapproving daughters and lively grandson, are very believable and I enjoyed reading their interaction.

At times the meandering, rambling nature of the narration can get irritating, but apart from that this is a well constructed, fascinating novel.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Japanese 'Remains of the Day', 30 July 2007
By 
Sam J. Ruddock (Norwich, England) - See all my reviews
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`An Artist of the Floating World' is basically the Japanese version of Ishiguro's Booker winning novel `The Remains of the Day'. As in The Remains of the Day the narrator is an unreliable witness with the shadow of pre-war culpability looming over his head. And as with The Remains of the Day the quiet individual has been drawn into the political events which transformed the world. Now retired, Masuki Ono passes his days in quiet seclusion, awaiting visits from his two daughters. He is a widower living alone, his wife and son having been killed during the war. But now it is 1948 and Japan is changing, collective guilt has seized the Japanese psyche, officials in the old regime are committing suicide and a new generation is emerging.

But as Ono works to finalise the marriage of his youngest daughter the issue of his pre-war allegiances arise and he is forced to come to terms with his responsibility for the militarist direction the 1930's took.

The question arises: what is the role of an artist in the wider political arena? Should the artist live solely for the reproduction of beauty, existing solely in a floating world divorced from society at large? Or should he become a conduit for change, a leader of public opinion? In the modern world where every rock star/artist/writer is expected to produce politically conscious work this is a valid and fascinating question.

An Artist of the Floating World produces a beautiful mirage, something like a Monet painting, with ideas and flawed characters flowing together in a silent, uneventful and almost heartbreaking novel. If you liked Remains of the Day then you will love this. It is absolutely fascinating to see the cultural comparisons between two such reserved societies on the verge of change. Kazuo Ishiguro is a rare gem of a writer and his earliest work is the most sparse of his career, he is a master of understatement, so I shall take a leaf out of his book and say nothing more. I enjoyed this book, you may too.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "We, at least, acted on what we believed and did our utmost", 31 May 2007
Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki in 1954 and moved to Britain at the age of five. He was awarded the OBE in 1995 and the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1998. "An Artist of the Floating World" is his second novel, was first published in 1986 and won that year's Whitbread Prize.

"An Artist of the Floating World" opens in October 1948, and is set in post-World War II Japan. The story is told by Masuji Ono, a retired artist and - once - a man of some influence and renown. His wife and son died during the war, though both his daughters survived - one is married, with a son, while Ono is conducting negotiations for his other's marraige. Over the course of the book, Ono looks back over his life and tries to deal with how his home city and the attitudes of the people around him are changing. His own career began on the workshop of Mister Moriyama, before he moved to the studio of Master Takeda - one who favoured painting the 'floating world', as the pleasure districts were known. Finally, Ono worked with Chishu Matsuda in producing artistic propoganda - which led to his position of influence leading up to and during the war. Now, in the post-war years, he notices how his own once great reputation has faltered and how attitudes towards him and his paintings have changed. There are many, for example, from the younger generations who hold him at least partly responsible for Japan's misguided foreign policy.These changes in attitude are being mirrored by the physical changes of the city. With the post-war rebuilding, whole districts are now becoming unrecognizable - Ono's own favourite 'pleasure district' is changing in this way. These changes in attitude and in the city lead Ono to look back over his life and try to come to terms with how he has lived it.

"An Artist of the Floating World" was an excellent book, though a little sad in places. Ono himself seems a somewhat sad at how his home city is changing - partly due to the damage caused by the war, partly in the name of 'progress'. In fact, I couldn't help feeling a little sad at the loss of Ono's 'pleasure district' myself. Ono, on the other hand, doesn't quite change enough : he acknowledges his role to a point, though doesn't show any real sorrow for how things turned out. There were one or two points I'd have liked more information on - particularly his relationship with an ex-pupil called Kuroda. I'm not too surprised, however, that Ono avoided this topic as much as possible, though. For Ono to have dwelt on that topic may have caused him to discover something about himself he didn't like.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art, but not for Art's sake, 16 Mar 2006
An Artist of the Floating World (1986) was Kazuo Ishiguro's second novel and his first fully-fledged masterpiece, just as achieved as The Remains of the Day, if a little more opaque and less directly affecting emotionally. It features another of Ishiguro's unreliable narrators, Masuji Ono, who is an elderly man, the artist of the title, with a dark secret. For a time this was my favourite Ishiguro novel - not a controversial choice as it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the Whitbread Book of the Year award - and in certain moods it may still be so. Because although all Ishiguro's novels have unifying qualities, they are also all distinct, each appealing in a different way to a different mood. An Artist of the Floating World is spare and short like his debut, but had diversions that also made it a pleasure to read over and above the more literary qualities. He seemed to me, for example, to have developed an exceptional ear for children's voices, in the character of Oji, Ono's grandson, who may or may not be authentic but is charming and pleasing and a distinct character in the way that many young children in novels are not. As with A Pale View of Hills, the key is in the unspoken - while Ono sounds confident and calm most of the time, we know he is stricken and paralysed by some horror connected with the rise of Japanese militarism in the early- to mid-20th century. So Ishiguro is a gift to those who want their fiction to be a dialogue between writer and reader, and not a spoon-fed monologue. It also explains why his books always reward re-reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A world the reader enters, 7 Jan 2012
Superficially, Kazuo Ishiguro's novel An Artist Of The Floating World seems to present a gentle observation of manners. There's a daughter to marry and thus associated contracts to be nurtured and negotiated. There's a relationship with an eight-year-old grandson who in the late 1940s is growing up with American cartoons and comic book heroes as his cultural icons. And, above all, there's the artist himself, bound up with concerns of style and expression, keen to re-examine his influences, especially those arising in the floating world.

His teacher had been instrumental in focusing his tutees on this floating world which could be found in the city's night-time entertainment district. The artist of this world of pleasure, Masuji Ono, learned well from his master and adopted much from his style, technique and philosophy of Japanese painting.

But Ono was not satisfied to portray the floating world's beauty for its own sake, or mere pleasure to evoke delight or diversion. No, he had other ideas, such as comment, loyalty, justice, pride, amongst others. And it is because of the direction of Masuji Ono's developing inspiration that provides the book with its sinister, even violent thread.

An Artist Of The Floating World is set in post-war Japan. There is cleaning up and reconstruction to be done. There is much rebuilding, and not a little reconstruction, much of it not merely physical, but also cultural. A victor's imposed norms are changing Japan's future, perhaps to the relief of many who cannot live with their own country's past.

Masuji Ono finds himself at the centre of this transformation because of his previous success as an artist. But, as he continues to seek a future husband for his younger daughter, his personal achievements apparently divide his acquaintances, pupils and even friends into distinct camps, those for, even reluctantly, and those definitely against.

The novel seems to inhabit similar territory to Orhan Pamuk's later book, My Name Is Red. There is a debate about culture, heritage and identity at the heart of an apparently rather narrow discussion of aesthetics and artistic influence. While Pamuk's characters inhabit the cut-throat world of the Ottoman court, Masuji Ono lives in a country defeated in war and ravaged by it. The desire to break with the past brings as much tension to Ono as the desire to retain it does in Red. But the style employed in An Artist Of The Floating World is deceivingly gentle and belies the deep tension and conflict at its heart.

Kazuo Isiguro's prose is always silky smooth, so much so that An Artist Of The Floating World seems like a short, even simple book. Luckily for the reader it is neither.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More of a Mood than a Book, 17 Oct 2009
By 
Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This elegant book, so carefully paced and politely presented takes us to the then sad country of Japan, just after the end of the second world war. Settling down after those dreadful days the taste of personal responsibility and regret is in the air. Change has come and the old days are gone. This gentle story is centred around the widowed Masuji Ono, his daughters and grandson, living on in the new era. Words unsaid but taken personally are also floating by, casual remarks felt more deeply than they need be perhaps, soul searching and reflection the theme. Tectonic plates of traditional behaviour are shifting and respect for Father seems to be slipping a little...

Mr. Ono is a celebrated artist and his personal standing is of great import to the balance of the tale. He talks to us about his early days and he creates an unusually meaningful picture of those long ago times. The author's masterful descriptions of time and place take us right there - the way in which some sandals are left out in the sun on a deck made me feel that I could just step into them myself.

The Remains of The Day is one of my all time favourites so I always enjoy reading Kazuo Ishiguro. This is not as compelling a book - to me - but that may well be because I am not at home in a Japanese story but still I learnt a lot and enjoyed being there with the family for the couple of days it took me to read it.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One artist on another, 15 Jun 2001
I started reading Ishiguro backwards, beginning with When We Were Orphans, moving onto A Pale View of the Hills, The Remains of the Day and now, An Artist. I think this is easily the most linear of the four novels, the simplest to comprehend. That doesn't mean, however, that the subtext is any less complex, or easy to access. It's just that the author has concerned himself here with -- dare I say it, a more unidimensional -- man and his history, zigzagging through time and memories in a gently satirical fashion. There's more humour in this novel than the others, which also makes it more approachable. I still think When We Were Orphans is a superior work, but that maybe because I haven't read The Unconsoled yet... But am I looking forward to it! And for those of you who haven't read An Artist, just go out and get it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dwelling in the past., 22 Jun 2009
By 
Jan Dierckx (Belgium, Turnhout) - See all my reviews
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The early novels by Kazuo Ishiguro deal with loneliness, isolation ('A Pale View of Hills', 'An artist of the Floating World') and the inability to respond to the feelings of others (The Remains of the Day).

Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954 and moved to Britain at the age of five.

It is 1948. Japan is rebuilding her cities after the calamity of World War II, her people putting defeat behind them and looking to the future. The celebrated painter, Masuji Ono, fills his days attending to his garden, his house repairs, his two grown daughters and his grandson; his evenings drinking with old associates in quiet lantern-lit bars. He should have a tranquil retirement. But as his memories continually return to the past - to a life and career deeply touched by the rise of Japanese militarism - a dark shadow begins to grow over his serenity...

It's the tragedy of a man who supported the wrong political ideas and somehow hasn't come to terms with his wrong judgement.
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An Artist of the Floating World
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (Paperback - 7 Feb 2013)
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