In Post-War Japan

ATWIB 2013 I’m back to the Alphabonkers challenge and my trip around the world with another 1001 Books list entry. I have read Ishiguro before, and liked his work very much. I found this novel somewhat less engaging than The Remains of the Day, but still it was a quick and easy read. Here is what I said in my Goodreads review:

An Artist of the Floating WorldAn Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I believe I have already mentioned the fact that I played a small part in the Migi-Hidari’s coming into existence. Of course, not being a man of wealth, there was little I could do financially. But by that time my reputation in this city had grown to a certain extent; as I recall, I was not yet serving on the arts committee of the State Department, but I had many personal links there and was already being consulted frequently on matters of policy. So then, my petition to the authorities on Yamagata’s behalf was not without weight.

‘It is the owner’s intention’, I explained,’that the proposed establishment be a celebration of the new patriotic spirit emerging in Japan today. The decor would reflect the new spirit, and any patron incompatible with that spirit would be firmly encouraged to leave. Furthermore, it is the owner’s intention that the establishment be a place where this city’s artists and writers whose works most reflect the new spirit can gather and drink together. With respect to this last point, I have myself secured the support of various of my colleagues, among them the painter, Masayuki Harada; the playwright, Misumi; the journalists, Shigeo Otsuji and Eiji Nastuki–all of them, as you know, producers of work unflinchingly loyal to his Imperial Majesty the Emperor.’

So remembers Masuji Ono, looking back on his pre-war life as a prominent artist in Imperial Japan. He is writing at a time after the war when a younger generation, and Japanese society at large, devastated by the effects of Japan’s role in the Second World War, look with criticism on those involved in engineering and promoting that war to the nation. His past actions have affected his professional relationships and have also created tension in the relationships with his own daughters. Ono must come to terms with the meaning of his own professional and artistic choices and their moral import in light of Japan’s recent history.

This is a fairly dry read, but an interesting study in the changing attitudes in Japanese society, the nature of artistic training in Japan, and the dynamics of relationships between the sexes and generations in Japanese families of the period. I found it interesting, but not particularly moving. Ironically, as one who lived briefly in Japan in the 1980s, I shared with Ono a certain concern about the degree to which American influences have come to predominate over traditional Japanese attitudes since American post-war occupation there. While I absolutely value the shift from aggressive nationalism to a more democratic and international perspective, I remember being somewhat horrified at the degree to which American materialism and less appealing cultural norms were sweeping Japan when I was there.

View all my reviews

So the scorecard now stands at:

Around the World (goal: 52 total including at least 6 in each of 6 different regions) 12
Asia/Mideast: 4 (Israel, China, Afghanistan, Japan)
Africa: 1 (Madagascar)
Europe: 3 (England/UK, Monaco, Poland)
Caribbean/Central America/North America: 2 (US, Cuba)
Oceania: 1 (Fiji)
South America:
Extra: 1 (Scotland)

Around the US (goal: 50 states, DC, and PR): 4 (CA, MS, NY, RI)

1001 Books (goal 52): 8

A to Z challenge (must be completed in order–26 author last names A to Z then 26 titles A to Z–strategy is all!): 8
Authors: Auster, Beinart, Chandler, Donovan, Eugenides, Faulkner, Grau, Hosseini, Ishiguro


About Beth Parks Aronson

I am Director of the Lamar University Psychology Clinic and run the clinical track of the Applied Psychology Masters Program. Previously, I was a psychologist in private practice in Jenkintown, PA where I specialized in anxiety disorders and working with people living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I am a little addicted to good literature. Ok, a lot addicted.
This entry was posted in 1001 Books, Around the World 2013, Books, Other Prizes and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to In Post-War Japan

  1. vanbraman says:

    Good choice for ‘I’. I have read several by Ishiguro, including this one. Now to see what you will read for ‘J’. If you haven’t read them, I would recommend Heavy Wings by Zhang Jie (1001, China) or The Known Word by Edward P. Jones (Pulitzer, Virginia).

    • Insanely, I decided to tackle Ulysses by Joyce. YIKES is all I can say 37% of the way through. Apparently this is the year of reading stream of consciousness novels. I am just trying to survive for now.

  2. Pingback: An Artist of the Floating World – Kazuo Ishiguro | 1001 Books to Read Before You Die

  3. Pingback: Absalom, Absalom – William Faulkner | 1001 Books to Read Before You Die

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