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, and his evenings drinking with old associates in quiet lantern-lit bars. His should be a tranquil retirement. But as his memories continually return to the past - to a life and a career deeply touched by the rise of Japanese militarism - a dark shadow begins to grow over his serenity.
'An exquisite novel.' Observer
'A work of spare elegance: refined, understated, economic.' Sunday Times...Continua
When I read a book I try to refrain from reading the blurb on the back of it beforehand, so this book was a little different than I had expected from the title.
While it does deal with the life of an artist of the floating world, it focuses on the artist's reevaluation of his life in postwar Japan, when Japanese society is questioning itself.
The artist is struggling with his own feelings of guilt for the part he played in Japan's imperialist propaganda before and during the war, and he compares himself to the heads of companies who committed suicide in shame afterwards. He suspects his daughters blame him for bringing dishonour to the family, and causing the end to his youngest daughter's engagement. When she is engaged again, he takes the hint and visits his old acquaintances, in case they should be approached by the fiancé's family as character reference. In doing so he reconsiders his life, and at a dinner between the two families, he apologises for the part he played. He feels relief in this, but afterwards, his daughters express surprise at his outburst and you get the feeling that his guilt is something personal, as in the grand scheme of things, he played a minor part as an artist. The typically vague remarks of his daughters could have been entirely innocent, and it was merely the artist who, because of his own sense of guilt, exaggerated his importance in Japanese society.
It is a short book and it is best read in one go, especially as the story jumps around a lot through the artist's life, so it's easy to get confused if you leave it down for a while.
A wonderful book examining the recent history of Japan from a remarkably contemporary writer .. questions the role and influence of the artist in the political sphere by presenting the troubled thoughts of a former propagandist painter of WW2 as he tries to assist in his daughter's wedding arrangements .. moving and revealing....Continua
For English Philology entrance exam. Gah, I never thought a book of only 200 pages could bore me to tears. The narrative didn't impress me and the plot was pointless. I'm interested to see how I'm going to make up something reasonable for the essay I have to write....Continua