An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1986. First American edition, with full numbers line (12345678910) on copyright page. Hardcover. 206 pages ; 22 cm. $15.95 dust jacket, with a one-inch tear to jacket's front top, left-hand corner. Binding is firm, and pages are free of markings.
The Lest things," the painting master explained to his young students, "are put together of a night and vanish with the morning. What people call the floating world."
This—the night-time world of pleasure, entertainment and drink—is what Masuji Ono and the others were taught to use as a backdrop for all their paintings. But Masuji Ono saw misery in his homeland and became unwilling to spend his skills solely in the celebration of physical beauty. Instead, he envisioned a strong and powerful nation of the future, and he put his painting to work in the service of the movement that led Japan into World War II.
Now, as the mature Masuji Ono struggles through the spiritual wreckage of that war, his memories of the floating world, of the days of his youth and promise, and of the betrayal of that promise serve as an escape from, a punishment for—and a justification of—his entire life. Drifting without honor in Japan's postwar society, which indicts him for its defeat and reviles him for his aesthetics, he relives the passage through his personal history that makes him both a hero and a coward but, above all, a human being.
An Artist of the Floating World is a sensual and profoundly convincing portrait of the artist as an aging man. At once a multigenerational tale and a samurai death poem written in English, it is also a saga of the clash of the old and new orders, blending classical and contemporary iconography with compassion and wit.
Kazuo Ishiguro was horn in Nagasaki in 1954. His family moved to England in I960, and he has lived there ever since. The "Japan" of his fiction is a country of his imagination. It was the setting also for his first novel, A Pale View of Hills f which received considerable critical acclaim around the world and was granted the Royal Society of Literature Award in England and inclusion in the American Library Association listing, Notable Books 1982.
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