This book is set in Japan during the second world war. The protagonist is an artist, Masuji Ono, who in his youthful days supported the imperialist movements which led to Japan’s involvement in the second world war. Ono is now in his grey-haired days and has to come to terms with his past and live in the present.
Irrespective of whether one is interested in World war or not, one can relate to this book very well. Everybody has a past and everybody repents about something they have done in their past. How much ever we want our past to stay away locked, our past actions do peep in to our present and keep reminding us of its existence.
Floating world refers to the luxurious sugar-coated life that one sees through pink glasses. In this world, there is no poverty, no worries. Ono grows up seeing his teacher painting more and more of this floating world. As any student would, he mimics his teacher and the floating world becomes the main theme for his paintings. When his eyes open to the real world, he sees a world with suffering all around. At the same time, second world war is looming and Japan is getting ready to be a part of it. Our artist decides to support this decision and conveys this using his paintings.
Post war, every house has lost a son and every city has lost its glory. The blame of this destruction lies on the shoulders of the older generation. Ono finds himself being blamed for his own actions of supporting imperialist movements.
The book does not have a beginning or an end as such. It’s more like reading a few pages off the artist’s diary. Ono is often seen in a dilemma – he cannot decide whether he should be proud of his actions or he should be ashamed of them. The conflict in the character’s mind is highlighted well and I often sympathized with Ono.
Compared to Ishiguro’s award winning book Remains of the day, this book comes across as weak. The story is not that strong and the writing too is not extra ordinary. The language is too casual – this could be intentional, to suit Ono’s voice.
The book is definitely not something you should avoid, but you are not missing anything by not reading it. If you are a hard core Ishiguro fan, might pick it up at your leisure, but don’t expect the magic of Remains of the day.