Monday, February 4, 2013


I have made a point of adding Japanese authors to my reading challenge this year (as well as Scandinavian and European), because I like to travel.  Ever since I was a kid I have always wanted to go somewhere else, particularly to England and Europe, but in my forties I have become interested in the more exotic and strange (to me) countries of Asia.  While the first book I ever read by Ishiguro was based in England (Remains of the Day), I was extremely touched by his talent for involving me in his story and for taking me somewhere and somewhen. 
This book brought me to post-war Japan and it was a real treat.  Japanese life is so different to what I know, and I find it fascinating.  Have you ever had the thought "I wonder what they must have been thinking, did they know what they were doing...did they care?"  Not so much with the Japanese have I thought about it but I have still wondered.  I have read most of what my school library contains on Japan, and there are few mentions of those particular indcidents, but I did want to cry when I read about the Peace Lantern.
While Artist of the Floating World  doesn't go too deeply into the past it is broached in remembrances of the protagonist, so I can see a little the climate of Japan pre World War II.  I can commiserate with him because I see how he must have felt watching his generation receding into history and the new generation is something unfamiliar to him.  Naturally, at that period of time in Japan the changes were almost abrupt because the new generation wanted to distance themselves from the shame of a nation and it was not so organic as the cultural changes of the few generations that I have had the privilege to see in the western world.
There is this quiet flavor to this book, which I have noticed with other books I have read by Japanese authors.  It takes a little getting used to, but I find it restful, even calming.  It feels like a reflection of the culture as a whole, everything is simple, subtle and always beautiful.  I look forward to reading whatever else Ishiguro has written because two books in, he is still taking my breath away.

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