Ishiguro: Initial Thoughts

Reading Assignment: pages 1-96 of Kazuo Ishiguro’s An Artist of the Floating World

October 1948

I must admit, this is the first time I have ever encountered Kazuo Ishiguro’s work during my career as a student. However, my colleagues at my job are very familiar with his writings and have expressed both great admiration for them and great excitement that I have been assigned his text.

After reading this first section, I can definitely understand where their love for Ishiguro’s novels has come from because I have been enthralled with this text since the opening paragraph.

“If on a sunny day you climb the steep path leading up from the little wooden bridge still referred to around here as ‘the Bridge of Hesitation’, you will not have to walk far before the roof of my house becomes visible between the tops of two gingko trees. Even if it did not occupy such a commanding position on the hill, the house would still stand out from all others nearby, so that as you come up on the path, you may find yourself wondering what sort of wealthy man owns it” (Ishiguro 7).

The imagery within this opening paragraph immediately drew me in and took hold of my imagination. While the details are sparse in this moment as to what the home actually looks like, I can still picture a stately, expansive home set upon a mountain. Perhaps there is a slight mist that refracts the sunlight ever so gently around it, only adding to the mystery and beauty surrounding the home and its inhabitants.

But, as our narrator expresses frequently throughout this section, I must admit that I digress.

Another aspect of this opening paragraph that immediately drew me in and captured my attention was the overall tone of the narrator. He addresses the reader as “you,” giving the sections (like this one) where he does so a very conversation-like tone. Combined with his use of imagery and descriptive language, it is almost as if he and the reader are sitting at a table at Mrs. Kawakami’s, sharing drinks or perhaps tea as he is telling us all about his home and life.


By this point, you, my dear reader, are probably wondering: “Megan, what does this have to do with the idea/concept of ‘floating?’ After all, isn’t that what this course is about?”. Well, my friend, that is a very good question.

In terms of narrative style and schematics, Ono (the narrator) floats between present day and memories from throughout his life, both post- and pre-World War II. He moves between these memories and present day events with ease, and while he may sometimes digress into a tangent, he always returns to the topic at hand. The British Council Literature has this to say about Ono’s (and other characters of Ishiguro’s fiction) movement between memory and present day:

“Ishiguro’s novels are preoccupied by memories, their potential to digress and distort, to forget and to silence, and above all to haunt. The protagonist of his fiction seek to overcome loss (the personal loss of family members and lovers; losses resulting from war) by making sense of the past through acts of remembrance” (British Council).

These aspects of loss can be found throughout the entirety of this section of the novel:

  • There are losses to his property and home due to bombings during the war. The memories associated with this loss are of how he came about purchasing the home from a prestigious family at a low price.
  • He experiences loss in the sense of losing a potential son-in-law/husband for his younger daughter. There are many questions surrounding the potential husband’s withdrawal from the marriage process, and there are many memories associated with this loss (Ono running into the man leaving a suspicious establishment is one example).
  • Ono experiences an ultimate loss by losing his son to the war, the memory associated with this being his son’s funeral and his son-in-law’s angry reaction to the service.
  • Finally (and I would argue most importantly), Ono loses much of his old, pre-War world. One example of this is the establishment he helped to expand into Migi-Hidari that is ultimately demolished after it is damaged during the bombings (there are numerous memories related to this loss, such as the memories associated with his career and The Tortise, his assistance with the expansion, and his patronage at Mrs. Kawakami’s).

I predict that we will begin to see more of these post-War losses throughout the rest of the story, particularly in relation to his culture and traditions. We have already begun to see how America’s occupation in Japan has started to change the country, hitting particularly close to home with Ichiro’s obsession with cowboys, and I have a feeling that it will become more prevalent. It will be interesting to see how Ono floats between his pre-war world and the evolving post-World War II Japan (I wonder if he will begin painting again to deal with this change, or if there’s something with his “tidied away” paintings that illustrate this move).

Next week we’ll be finishing An Artist of the Floating World, so I guess we’ll find out then.

-Megan

SOURCES:
Ishiguro, Kazuo. An Artist of the Floating World. Vintage Books, 1989, New York.

“Kazuo Ishiguro.” British Council Literature, 2 Feb.2017.  https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/kazuo-ishiguro

Why hello there!

Welcome to Floating Among Artists, a blog dedicated to my reading responses on and general musings about the texts I will be reading for my Comparative Literatures graduate class (English 657).

Since this is the first post for this new blog of mine, I will mainly be covering some basics regarding the course content and what not, so please stay tuned for my first post on the text my class read for this week.

To begin, let me direct you to the about tab in the top menu bar of this blog. If you click on it, it’ll redirect you to a page where you can read more about the purpose of this blog, the reading list I will be covering, and a little bit of information about me, the author/writer/blogger.

But, if you can’t be bothered with going to the “about” page (which is totally fine), let me give you the gist of how this blog is going to work. I will be posting at least one post for each weekly reading assignment that I am given in class. At the top of every post, I will list the reading assignment for that day, information that will include the book, author’s name, and page numbers the class read through (if we are reading a section that is titled, like we did for our first reading in the course, I will include the section name as well).

If you look at the top menu bar, there is a tab that says “Author Indexes” which is a complete list of all the authors I will be reading from this semester. Each author has a page that will be their “Index” of all of the blog entries related to that author. After I post each blog entry, I will either link it or post the entire entry on their individual “Index” page so readers won’t have to scroll through the entire blog to find the post their looking for.

As of this moment, all pages of this blog are under construction. The author’s index pages are mostly blank, save for a picture of the bear illustration that is attached to this post (done by yours truly) and a blurb about the pages being works in progress. The bear illustration is supposed to look like a construction worker, but I don’t know how successful I was in sketching him. But, if you see the bear on a page or in a post, it means that that part of the blog is in progress and I’m working on it.

Well, that’s it! If you have any questions about this blog or the content that will be featured (or you’d just like to say “hello”), please feel free to leave me a comment or contact me using the “Contact Me” tab located in the top menu bar.

See you in the next post about our first author, Ishiguro.

-Megan