An Artist of the Floating World

10 Mar

I’m reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s An Artist of the Floating World. I tell you this because it’s pertinent to what I’m about to the following entry, not because I wish to provide you with a book recommendation (though you should read all his works, particularly Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day).

I tell you this because in this book, which I bought from my local second-hand bookshop on Golders Green road, I found the following note:

Note: Tom your Dad will call at 7:45am tomorrow

I didn’t notice this note fall out when I bought this book many months ago, nor when I moved it from shelf to shelf as it begged to be read. I didn’t even notice it when I hauled it off to the Paris, with the expectation I might crack open its pages on the Eurostar (I just slept instead).


The first time I opened this book was yesterday (Wednesday) on my commute home from another day at The Covered Bond Report. That’s when the note fell out. I was instantly intrigued. Who was Tom? Where was his Dad? Did his mother write him this note while he was preoccupied with some other task? Does that imply his parents were separated? Or, was Tom away at University and his roommate left him this note on his nightstand? Seems more likely, no? Or, perhaps Tom was off on a great adventure—volunteering to dig wells or build homes in some poor country or hiking up mountains.

I wonder when this was written. It’s like a snapshot in time. Why would anyone bother keeping it? This edition was published in 1987—a year before I was born. Where is Tom now? Where is his Dad now? Still living? Maybe Tom was old when this was written. Maybe his Dad was old. Maybe the note dates back even further to the book. Maybe Tom’s Dad was sick in the hospital and his wife wrote him this note while he inhaled Ishiguro’s words. And then when his father passed, Tom kept the note as a reminder of that quiet moment.

The saddest and most wonderful thought is that I’ll never know. I get to imagine. Who is Tom? And who is his father? They can be whomever and whatever I imagine them to be.


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