This is my second Ishiguro (the first one being The Remains of the Day), and I am beginning to find some overlapping themes and motifs.
Much like The Remains of the Day, the writing in An Artist of the Floating World is solid, to put it lightly. Ishiguro has a way with words. His way is subtle. Bit by bit, we find the picture completed, and out emerges the complete story. In both novels, the main character is an older man who can't help but reminiscing. The narrator is unreliable, but Ishiguro makes sure we notice. In their thoughts, in the way they present the world to us, we can tell that both Masuji Ono (An Artist of the Floating World) and Stevens (The Remains of the Day) are seeing events through a lens. And yet, masterfully, Ishiguro lets us see both parts of the picture - the one felt and lived by his characters, the subjective one, so to say, and the real(er), objective truth.
An Artist of the Floating World follows aged artist Masuji Ono as he comes to terms with personal guilt in post-war Japan. We meet him at a time in his life when his youngest daughter is set to be married. Hints are dropped that her previous marriage arrangements (old Japan = arranged marriages) shattered when the other family backed down. Through Masuji's thoughts, we understand that he feels others blame him for it, particularly his oldest daughter. But is it so?
Through our narrator, we feel the rift between the older and younger generations, the striking different world of pre-WWII and post-WWII Japan. One is a society drunk on patriotism, the other a nation struggling with guilt and anger. With snippets of daily life and without ever giving much information, Kazou Ishiguro paints a vivid picture of a whole country, of two generations, of a war and its aftermath, and of an old man's life, with its ups and downs. He delves into our perceptions, and how they affect our dealings with people, jumping deep into the human consciousness.
With this novel, I reinforced what I had already learned with Remains of the Day - that Ishiguro is a master of subtlety and one of the best authors I've encountered. Simple, unpretentious, and under 200 pages, the scope of An Artist of the Floating World is tremendous. A read that I go back to constantly, pondering...
And one that I recommend to any lover of masterful works.