Sunday, May 24, 2015

An artist of the floating world - Kazuo Ishiguro

'An artist of the floating world' is written by Kazuo Ishiguro who was born in Nagasaki moved to England when he was five..This work has won Whitbread Prize..The story was set in Japan,a couple of years after world war II..It is the story of a retired famous artist  Masuji Ono..The novel is narrated by Ono himself where he describes about the conditions of Japan before and after war..With his wife and son killed in the war,he lives with his younger daughter Noriko..The elder daugher Setsuko was already married and she has a son named Ichiro and Noriko was yet to get married..Ono feels Noriko's engagement was cancelled as the boy's party were concerned about his past..He constantly sees himself responsible for the war in some way and feels guilty that war made things difficult for Noriko..Also after war,the youth was not happy with the elders's choice of adopting imperialism..However people like Ono were very proud of their choices when they were young..Thus,Ono not only struggles to cope with the changing cultural patterns of society but also suffers from guilt.

Image Courtesy Google
 The story moves further when Ono narrates his youth as a student at Mori-san..When he was young, Ono chooses imperialism is the best option for his nation,and he uses his art as a medium to provoke people against politicians..Eventually he becomes an outcast when his teacher Mori-san sends him out of his art school for being disloyal to the society..At one point Ono says,'I cannot be an artist of the floating world'..But after Japan lost in the war,the war damage questions his very life choices..The tremendous social and cultural changes of his city makes him feel like his choices were wrong in the past..But in the end,he accepts all his mistakes from his past achievements with out regrets.

I want to start reading Ishiguro with his most acclaimed Booker Prize winning work,'The Remains of the Day'..But somehow the appealing title of this book made me read it first..It's very fitting title for the story..So far I did not know about his other works but this one book,I particularly loved it very much..With his wonderful pace of narration you'll certainly have the experience of 'floating world' in Ono's story..The repercussions of adopting imperialism in Japan were very well depicted in the novel..The story appears to be very slow but at the end you feel like you heard a lot while very little had been told..The best part about the book is Ono's reminiscences.

Here are few lines from the book,

One evening not so long ago, I was standing on that little wooden bridge and saw away in the distance two columns of smoke rising from the rubble. Perhaps it was government workers continuing some interminably slow programme; or perhaps children indulging in some delinquent game. But the sight of those columns against the sky put me in a melancholy mood. They were like pyres at some abandoned funeral. A graveyard, Mrs Kawakami says, and when one remembers all those people who once frequented the area, one cannot help seeing it that way.

Having said this, I must say I find it hard to understand how any man who values his self-respect would wish for long to avoid responsibility for his past deeds; it may not always be in easy thing, but there is certainly a satisfaction and dignity to be gained in coming to terms with the mistakes one has made in the course of one’s life. 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.

Kazuo Ishiguro-Courtesy Google
I liked these things very much...Mori-san's words to Ono..
Gisaburo is an unhappy man. He’s had a sad life. His talent has gone to ruin. Those he once loved have long since died or deserted him. Even in our younger days, he was already a lonely, sad character.’ Mori-san paused a moment. Then he went on: ‘But then sometimes we used to drink and enjoy ourselves with the women of the pleasure quarters, and Gisaburo would become happy. Those women would tell him all the things he wanted to hear, and for the night anyway, he’d be able to believe them. Once the morning came, of course, he was too intelligent a man to go on believing such things. But Gisaburo didn’t value those nights any the less for that. The best things, he always used to say, are put together of a night and vanish with the morning. What people call the floating world, Ono, was a world Gisaburo knew how to value.

It’s hard to appreciate the beauty of a world when one doubts its very validity.

It is not, I fancy, a feeling many people will come to experience. The likes of the Tortoise — the likes of Shintaro — they may plod on, competent and inoffensive, but their kind will never know the sort of happiness I felt that day. For their kind do not know what it is to risk everything in the endeavour to rise above the mediocre.


sunil deepak said...

Thanks for this review, it has made me curious to read this book.

I am very fond of the medieval Japaanse art called Ukiyo-e (floating world), which had attracted me when I had read the title of your post imagining that Kazuo has written about that period but from your review it seems not! :)

Archana Chaurasia Kapoor said...

Very well written review Nagini :) Sounds like a very interesting book. Thanks for sharing!
Cheers, Archana -

Tomichan Matheikal said...

Ishiguro is a great writer and your review reminds me that I am yet to read him.

Ravish Mani said...

Great review, Nagini. It's a potential read for me :)

AmitAag said...

Another great review! Thank you Nagini:)