An Artist of the Floating World

by

Kazuo Ishiguro

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Yasunari Nakahara, the Tortoise Character Analysis

The Tortoise is an artist who paints very slowly and earns the mockery of Ono’s colleagues at the Takeda Firm, until Ono defends him and takes him under his wing. Ono convinces the Tortoise to move with him to Mori-san’s villa, and the Tortoise often showers Ono in praise. This all ends when Ono changes his art to match Matsuda’s ideas instead of Mori-san’s and the Tortoise dissociates himself from Ono, whom he says is a traitor.

Yasunari Nakahara, the Tortoise Quotes in An Artist of the Floating World

The An Artist of the Floating World quotes below are all either spoken by Yasunari Nakahara, the Tortoise or refer to Yasunari Nakahara, the Tortoise. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of An Artist of the Floating World published in 1986.
October 1948 Quotes

I have still in my possession a painting by the Tortoise — a self-portrait he painted not long after the Takeda days. It shows a thin young man with spectacles, sitting in his shirtsleeves in a cramped, shadowy room, surrounded by easels and rickety furniture, his face caught on one side by the light coming from the window. The earnestness and timidity written on the face are certainly true to the man I remember, and in this respect, the Tortoise has been remarkably honest; looking at the portrait, you would probably take him to be the sort you could confidently elbow aside for an empty tram seat. But then each of us, it seems, has his own special conceits. If the Tortoise's modesty forbade him to disguise his timid nature, it did not prevent him attributing to himself a kind of lofty intellectual air — which I for one have no recollection of. But then to be fair, I cannot recall any colleague who could paint a self-portrait with absolute honesty; however accurately one may fill in the surface details of one's mirror reflection, the personality represented rarely comes near the truth as others would see it.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Yasunari Nakahara, the Tortoise, Master Takeda
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

You may perhaps think I am taking too much credit in relating this small episode; after all, the point I was making in the Tortoise's defence seems a very obvious one — one you may think would occur instantly to anyone with any respect for serious art. But it is necessary to remember the climate of those days at Master Takeda's – the feeling amongst us that we were all battling together against time to preserve the hard-earned reputation of the firm. We were also quite aware that the essential point about the sort of things we were commissioned to paint — geishas, cherry trees, swimming carps, temples — was that they look ‘Japanese’ to the foreigners to whom they were shipped out, and all finer points of style were quite likely to go unnoticed. So I do not think I am claiming undue credit for my younger self if I suggest my actions that day were a manifestation of a quality I came to be much respected for in later years — the ability to think and judge for myself, even if it meant going against the sway of those around me.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Yasunari Nakahara, the Tortoise, Master Takeda
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:
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Yasunari Nakahara, the Tortoise Character Timeline in An Artist of the Floating World

The timeline below shows where the character Yasunari Nakahara, the Tortoise appears in An Artist of the Floating World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
October 1948
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
A year after Ono started working for Master Takeda, an artist named Yasunari Nakahara joined the firm. Nakahara never gained any reputation but went on to teach at a... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
The Tortoise got his nickname because he painted very slowly. In the rushed climate of the Takeda... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
City, Nation, History Theme Icon
Looking back, Ono cannot be sure that he defended the Tortoise exactly as he has said he did. He says it may seem like he is... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
The narrative jumps to a couple of months after Ono intervened on the Tortoise ’s behalf. Ono and the Tortoise run into one another on the grounds of the... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
The Tortoise is uncomfortable at Ono’s suggestion that he leave Master Takeda’s firm. He says that he... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
...moment, Ono says he is not sure that he expressed his thoughts on loyalty to the Tortoise exactly as he says he did. He has often repeated the story of his decision... (full context)
November 1949
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
...to Mori-san’s teachings, the offender often gave up on the painting entirely. When Ono and the Tortoise first arrived at the villa, the Tortoise often had to destroy his work because it... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
...a colleague who never meets the deadline, saying he has been given the nickname “ the Tortoise .” Ono excitedly tells them that he also once had a colleague nicknamed the Tortoise,... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
Ono recalls his relationship with the Tortoise , of whom he was fond, but whom he never considered an equal. Ono and... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
A few days later when he entered the kitchen, the Tortoise looked at Ono in alarm. Gesturing towards Ono’s painting, he asked if it was a... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
City, Nation, History Theme Icon
The painting that the Tortoise was shocked by is called “Complacency,” and it was inspired by a walk Ono took... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
City, Nation, History Theme Icon
Turning away from his recollections of Matsuda’s remarks, Ono looks back on the moment when  the Tortoise discovered “Complacency.” He thinks that the Tortoise was probably not disturbed by the political message... (full context)
June 1950
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
Most people, Ono thinks, never feel this kind of contentment. Certainly, the Tortoise or Shintaro would be incapable of it, because they never risk anything to rise above... (full context)