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1. The Woman in the Dunes
2. Secret Rendezvous
3. The Face of Another
4. Three Plays by Kobo Abe
5. Kangaroo Notebook: A Novel
6. The Ruined Map: A Novel
7. The Box Man: A Novel
8. Beyond the Curve (Modern Japanese
9. The Ark Sakura (Vintage International)
10. Inter Ice Age 4
11. Abe Kobo: An Exploration of His
12. The Woman in the Dunes
13. Sublime Voices: The Fictional
14. Le sanatorium des malades du temps:
15. Literaturlexikon 20. Jahrhundert
16. Fake Fish: The Theater Of Kobo
17. Abe Kobo (Shincho Nihon bungaku
18. Friends: [Play]
19. The Man Who Turned into a Stick:
20. Mort Anonyme (French Edition)

1. The Woman in the Dunes
by Kobo Abe
Paperback: 256 Pages (1991-04-16)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$6.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679733787
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
One of the premier Japanese novels of the twentieth century, The Women in the Dunes combines the essence of myth, suspense, and the existential novel. In a remote seaside village, Niki Jumpei, a teacher and amateur entomologist, is held captive with a young woman at the bottom of a vast sand pit where, Sisyphus-like, they are pressed into shoveling off the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten the village.

"Abe follows with meticulous precision his hero's constantly shifting physical, emotional and psychological states. He also presents...everyday existence in a sand pit with such compelling realism that these passages serve both to heighten the credibility of the bizarre plot and subtly increase the interior tensions of the novel."

-- The New York Times Book Review

"Some of Kobo Abe's readers will recall Kafka's manipulation of a nightmarish tyranny of the unknown, others Beckett's selection of sites like the sand pit...as a symbol of the undignified human predicament." -- Saturday ReviewAmazon.com Review
This beautiful novel by one of Japan's most important writersis also one of the most strangely terrifying and memorable booksyou'll ever read. The Woman in the Dunes is the story of anamateur entomologist who wanders alone into a remote seaside villagein pursuit of a rare beetle he wants to add to his collection. But thetownspeople take him prisoner. They lower him into the sand-pit homeof a young widow, a pariah in the poor community, who the villagershave condemned to a life of shoveling back the ever-encroaching dunesthat threaten to bury the town. An amazing book. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (59)

5-0 out of 5 stars 1/8 millimeter
This had to be one of the most bizarre pieces of literature I have ever read -- but that's a good thing, really. It's a very claustrophobic work -- the setting is ultimately very very small and limited. I think this was a really cool effect -- it made us feel more "at home" with where the characters were.

To think that, according to Abe, sand -- only 1/8 mm in diameter -- can so oppress us... Maybe, he is saying, life is sometimes beyond our control.

The themes of living amidst even the worst circumstances are quite apparent, I think, and the sand pit being representative of the mind-numbing simplicity of every day life is a nice pessimistic vision for us all. This book is the story of a man who wants to escape from this mundane existence which he is forced into against his own will, like we all have no choice but, whether we earn an education or not, to work, every day, with little consolation or reward. This is a story of a man who lives out a pure human existence, though in captivity. He works, he eats, he sleeps.

Abe's point must be that there is no more to life than this. We should never expect too much from our lives. Like Jumpei does in this novel, we simply have to come to terms with our existence and find something worth devoting our time to -- like his little discovery in the end, which spurs him on in his work.

A note: in this translation, we are lead to believe that Niki Jumpei is single and living with a woman. This isn't true. In the Japanese version, Jumpei is married to Niki Shino. The author uses a Japanese pronoun to mean "woman" which is most commonly used by married Japanese men to refer to their wife. This novel is written in a very traditional Japanese manner, believe it or not, so the translator had to take a few liberties, I would assume. Since the story is told in third person, the use of this particular pronoun would confuse any transltor, really. Also, in the "missing person notice" at the end, the claimant is Jumpei's WIFE, not his mother. That final passage is translated word-for-word -- except for some reason the translator felt the need to put the word "mother" in parentheses as an attempt to clarify Niki's family life.

I think this might help the reader, because reading the Japanese version, one gets the impression early on that Jumpei left on his little trip partly as a result of a marital conflict.

5-0 out of 5 stars Surreal and fascinating reading!!
This is an original story about the insect collector, Jumpei, who gets caught in a hole in the sand without being able to escape. He meets a widow there who spends her days shoveling sand away from her home in the dunes. Both engage in a series of erotic interactions and live out an interesting relation in spite of their captivity.
The events and scenery are ideal for a surreal, existential and fascinating reading.

Joyce Akesson, author of The Invitation and Love's Thrilling Dimensions

3-0 out of 5 stars Sandsandsand
"The sands never rested. Greatly but surely they invaded and destroyed the surface of the earth...ceaseless movement that made it inhospitable...What a difference compared with the dreary way human beings clung together year in year out" (14). And off goes the protagonist, for the most part referred to simply as `the man', tired of his mediocre existence as a teacher, in search of a new breed of insect. He wants to immortalise himself, sure, but the real driving force behind it is his newfound philosophy of sand, summarised above.

The Woman in the Dunes is essentially, if you'll pardon the lazy reference, another novel very much along the lines of The Castle and The Outsider. Add to those books a sprinkle of Japanese history, the conflict between east and west, classicism versus modernisation, dull the philosophical exposition and the quality of the writing, add in a bit of rapeyness, and this is what you'll get. It is the story of a man who is kidnapped while out exploring the sand dunes that enclose a bizarre village ever on the verge of being consumed by the sand and forced to work for them shovelling sand. If he doesn't shovel sand they starve him. He shovels sand, he stops, he moans, he ponders existence somewhat shallowly. There is a lot of sand, and the prose, fittingly, is very dry, lacking in flourish.

The man wants to be free, live like the sand, which "represents purity, cleanliness" (27), renege any claims on fixity. Why cling to something arbitrary? Why not accept the ultimate meaninglessness of everything and let go of whatever epistemological certainties you misguidedly buy into? Things with form (structure, logocentricity) are "empty when placed beside sand" (41): "The very fact it had no form was doubtless the highest manifestation of its strength" (31). Of course, take choice away, get dumped in a hole and starved and your perceptions of things are apt to change. The man, trapped with a woman he abuses repeatedly, partly animalistically due to his confinement and partly out of disgust with her passivity, her meek acceptance of her fixed location, brushing sand arbitrarily (Sisyphus, anyone?), begins to break down. "As if he had gone mad, he began to yell - he did not know what, his words were without meaning. He simply shouted...as though he could make the bad dream come to its senses" (50-1). There we go, tick tick, the emptiness of language. As the story progresses and his escape attempt fails, he predictably comes to either appreciate the charming simplicity of his life in the village, away from all the concerns of the modern world and its equal meaninglessness, or he is crushed, a la 1984, into believing that he wants to be there. He realises that "the beauty of the sand...belonged to death" (183) and here, fighting pointlessly against it, he has a life of sorts.

In theory it is an interesting story. The problem, or one of them at least, is that the novel relies solely on the image, on the symbol. The man is characterised just enough for us to read his semi-philosophical mumblings as believable and the woman is nothing more than a signifier. The freaky village and its inhabitants, the most interesting things in the novel, are left other. To do more with them would change the point of the entire book, of course. Which would arguably have been a good thing. It lacks the depth of the big existential novels one cannot help but compare it to, and doesn't make up for this lack stylistically. While it's not worthless, this needlessly elongated short story/weakly extended metaphor does not warrant the kind of praise as its peers, and as such anyone who has even a passing interest in the European philosonovels of the 20th Century is liable to be unmoved.

by Joshua Jones (Review from [...])

5-0 out of 5 stars an existential novel
The Woman in the Dunes is described as an existential novel. A widow and a entomologist struggle to control the blowing sand inundating their village. The plot shows how the kidnapped protagonist adjusts to his circumstances and becomes absorbed by them. The back cover of a second-hand paperback calls the story existential; another descriptor is avant-garde. The lonely setting along a sand-driven Japanese seacoast parallels the main character's singular plight. Lovely is the discovery of manifold properties in sand a casual seer does not perceive.

5-0 out of 5 stars As great as Kafka's The Castle
A masterpiece of existentialist fantasy, greatly influenced by Kafka, but no less original in its ability to make the reader painfully aware of the kindimprisonment that we all face, as the tiny grains of life's obligations result in a deluge of sand. ... Read more

2. Secret Rendezvous
by Kobo Abe
Paperback: 192 Pages (2002-07-09)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$6.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375726543
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
From the acclaimed author of Woman in the Dunes comes Secret Rendezvous, the bizarrely erotic and comic adventures of a man searching for his missing wife in a mysteriously vast underground hospital.
From the moment that an ambulance appears in the middle of the night to take his wife, who protests that she is perfectly healthy, her bewildered husband realizes that things are not as they should be. His covert explorations reveal that the enormous hospital she was taken to is home to a network of constant surveillance, outlandish sex experiments, and an array of very odd and even violent characters. Within a few days, though no closer to finding his wife, the unnamed narrator finds himself appointed the hospital’s chief of security, reporting to a man who thinks he’s a horse. With its nightmarish vision of modern medicine and modern life, Secret Rendezvous is another masterpiece from Japan’s most gifted and original writer of serious fiction. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

4-0 out of 5 stars weird, but good
This was the first Kobe Abe book I've read.It a short quick read, but rather crazy.I'm not sure what really happened or why. A lot of things are so random and therefore entertaining.I would recommend this book to those who like well written books with great imagery and that are thought-provoking, but ultimately lack the usual plot structure and conclusion of a story.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Japanese "Kafka" at His Best
Surrealism exemplified some of the most famous works by Kobo Abe (1924-1993), earning him comparisons to Franz Kafka.Surrealism as a 20th-century literary and artistic movement attempted to express the workings of the subconscious.

His work Mikkai (Secret Rendezvous) is worth a read for its use of fantastic imagery and the incongruous juxtaposition of scientific data with bizarre nightmare-like scenarios.Secret Rendezvous is relevant in its description of the trappings of an increasingly technological society and its critique of a hospital system gone haywire. Each patient requires a secret agent to penetrate the bureaucratic system, and each person also appears to be under surveillance, mimicking the modern-day question, "Is Big Brother watching you?"

5-0 out of 5 stars A sort of pseudo-Freudian sex nightmare...

From the very start of this short, but densely labyrinthine and surreally intense novel, you know that you're in strange territory. An ambulance comes unbidden in the middle of the night, spirits away a man's perfectly healthy wife, and he's left to begin a Kafkaesque search to find out what's become of her in a hospital whose nightmarish bureaucracy is concealing a bizarre and ominous program of sex research.

Abe has the rare talent of making even the most outlandish situations seem perfectly plausible and that's what lends *Secret Rendezvous* its riveting sense of psychological truth and subjective terror. Like a powerful myth, there's something more *real* than real about the protagonist's endlessly frustrating search, his alternating states of inexplicable omnipotence and paralyzing impotence, his longing to find his missing wife and his fear of doing so.

Like Robbe-Grillet, Abe is a master of moody erotic dread and the hint of horrors forever just out of view. Unlike Robbe-Grillet, Abe's storyline, though fractured, is not obsessively repetitive; though detailed, it's not frozen in time--events move forward towards a conclusion that, although ambiguous, nevertheless seems eerily inevitable.

Explicit, often shocking, never purely prurient, and, at times, even surprisingly funny, *Secret Rendezvous* is a disturbing and thought-provoking novel by a writer who strikes me as one of the most under-appreciated of the 20th century. His sexually-charged themes and dark insights into psychological dilemmas flatly without resolution make a point about the problematic nature of the human condition that is not easily assimilated to a culture that still believes in solutions...in fact, that still believes in the concept of `humanity' at all.

Perhaps, that makes Abe more relevant now than ever.

3-0 out of 5 stars the mind's capacity for self-deception

Through the meticulous detail and persistent narrative rhythm of "Woman in the Dunes," Kobo Abe masterfully creates an emotional experience of visceral intensity, inculcated word by word like so many grains of sand, ever encroaching."Secret Rendezvous" is marked by the same ability to convey vivid viscerality thru the use of detail, narrative rhythm, and the careful cultivation of image, but in some important ways this book fails to bring its sense of confusion beyond much more than muddled mystery.

This book invokes a claustrophobic sense of bureaucratic ambivalence, existential bewilderment and ethical ambiguity, all complicated by veiled and bizarre sexual depravity. This is a dark and increasingly surreal book.If it fails to be deeply disturbing, it seems only because certain elements and characters are not presented with enough clarity to give their confusions full resonance.Despite this, the novel is effective in exploring the mind's capacity for self-deception, and finds a certain manic comedy in our capacity to shape reality according to our delusions.

I find this to be a psychological novel of warped vision, insightful but difficult to read. Once in the concrete corridor of my apartment building, I found a praying mantis, apparently lost. I tried to escort him out a window, but he retreated and I was forced to leave him be. Weeks later, amongst a tangle of dust and hair, I saw the mantis' stiffened carcass, and when I tried to imagine the last weeks of his life, wandering in that empty concrete hollow, I was vividly reminded of this book...

5-0 out of 5 stars The labyrinth of a Hospital
The hospital is a labyrinth of human depravity. A man wanders through it searching for his wife, constantly assaulted by odd and insane sights, sounds, and people. Written with mind piercing clarity and description. ... Read more

3. The Face of Another
by Kobo Abe
Paperback: 256 Pages (2003-02-04)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$8.58
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375726535
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Like an elegantly chilling postscript to The Metamorphosis, this classic of postwar Japanese literature describes a bizarre physical transformation that exposes the duplicities of an entire world. The narrator is a scientist hideously deformed in a laboratory accident–a man who has lost his face and, with it, his connection to other people. Even his wife is now repulsed by him.

His only entry back into the world is to create a mask so perfect as to be undetectable. But soon he finds that such a mask is more than a disguise: it is an alternate self–a self that is capable of anything. A remorseless meditation on nature, identity and the social contract, The Face of Another is an intellectual horror story of the highest order. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great!
This is a great book! I was amazed by the simple yet poweful language used. It is well worth the investment.

4-0 out of 5 stars A face to meet the faces that we meet...
Everyone knows that in Japanese society there's hardly anything worse than losing face. Kobo Abe starts with this cultural taboo and amplifies it to its logically nightmarish extreme as he explores the existential horror experienced by a scientist who literally loses his face in a laboratory accident. Hideously disfigured and shunned even by his former friends and colleagues, the narrator of *The Face of Another* describes in harrowing detail the totality of his isolation from human contact--especially from his conventional, well-meaning wife--and his desperate plan to create for himself a life-like mask that will reopen the `doorway' between him and the community of others.

The novel itself is written as an extended address to the aforementioned wife and meant to be read after he carries out his intention of seducing her as the `stranger' the mask allows him to become. Between the elaborate preparation of the mask and the ill-fated seduction, Abe's narrator travels a zig-zag path between cynicism and self-loathing, psychological breakdown and philosophical speculation as he confronts the elusive nature of human relations and personal identity. His mask gives him a passport to cross the border forbidden the faceless and to re-enter society. Even more, it grants him the radical freedom to be someone else, to be anyone else...to be everyone else. But at what price? If he must wear a mask has he really accomplished anything? Is he really being seen by others or is his `true' self as invisible as before--and just who is he, anyway? How does he choose his mask? Does a mask ultimately reveal or conceal? Which mask will his estranged wife be seduced by? And if she is seduced, has she been unfaithful? Has she betrayed him with himself? As he contemplates these labyrinthine questions, Abe's narrator comes to understand how even people with undamaged faces are also wearing a mask when they're with others. Is the face itself nothing but a mask made of flesh?

This eerie, thought-provoking novel operates on several different levels. But what makes it more than just another Jeckyll & Hyde tale of evil doubles, shadow-selves, and dual identities is the profound philosophical dialectic that Abe engages in throughout. A mystery, thriller, horror novel all in one, *The Face of Another* is a sophisticated meditation on that most enigmatic question of all: who exactly are we?

At times Abe's story drags, at other times his musings are difficult to follow, almost as if some vital connection between his observations had been lost in translation, and, therefore minus one-star, but, the last fifty pages or so are as powerful as anything you're likely to read. For the most part, *The Face of Another* is a riveting and disturbing work that, like Abe's classic *The Woman in the Dunes,* I won't soon--if ever--forget. You probably won't either.

5-0 out of 5 stars The absurdity is almost a character.
This book begins odd and gets creepy and ends, I believe, scary.At the outset you have a feeling of sympathy for the character, which grows into 1 of 2 things as the book progresses - detached fascination with Abe's character study, or revulsion.Possibly both.

The philosophical musings are there, but what hasn't been mentioned here is the flawed narrator.The musings themselves may be bs, but because our sympathy hasn't been completely destroyed when they begin, we give them the benefit of the doubt.That they become more and more absurd is to give an idea of the heightened sense of fear in the narrator about the impending action.At first we disagree with what he says (early on) but at the same time, due to our involvement, ask 'to what extent could that be true, or to what extent is it in fact true, if we look at it in a slightly different light?'

I personally prefer this to Kangaroo Notebook, which, while outrageous and a fun read, is effective not for its realism, but for its fantasy.This book, on the other hand, produces its effects more believably, because there's really nothing to prevent this exact person from existing.

I feel it is an interesting predecessor to Vanilla Sky based of course on the mask and also on the theme of isolation.It also reminds me of Palahniuk's 'Survivor' through the looking glass - a very opposite character, introverted, but also because of the ending - a very similar truncation that implies...

Engrossing read.

5-0 out of 5 stars 5-stars for the eerie film version by master director Hiroshi Teshigahara
I'm posting this here for readers interested in comparing the film to the book...

Criterion (Collection DVD) has released THE FACE OF ANOTHER (TANIN NO KAO), director/artist Hiroshi Teshigahara's 1966 film version of Kobo Abe's eponymous novel. The film version is a fine complement to the book. Tatsuya Nakadai, perhaps best known to American filmgoer's as the "king" in RAN (1985; Akira Kurosawa's adaptation of Shakespeare's KING LEAR) is the lead, joined by Machiko Kyo as his wife. The film is in (often high-contrast) black & white, which adds to the overall eerieness. The 60s atmosphere is at times amusing yet not distracting enough to smother the serious philosophical and psychological themes. The memorable, sinister "waltz" from the film is available in a compilation CD from the Nonesuch label, "The Film Music of Toru Takemitsu." Film Music of Takemitsu

Criterion's Teshigahara box set features two more of the director's adaptations of Kobe Abe novels: WOMAN IN THE DUNES and PITFALL. Each film features an excellent video essay by James Quandt of Cinematheque Ontario. The 4th DVD in the set features a documentary on the collaboration of T. and Kobo Abe and a few short films by T.

Three Films By Hiroshi Teshigahara (Pitfall / Woman In The Dunes / The Face Of Another) (Criterion Collection)

The same three T./Abe films are also available in Region 2 DVD coding from Eureka/MoC (Masters of Cinema) and are sold on Amazon's British web site. The Eureka version of "FACE" has a full-length audio commentary by Tony Rayns. Region-Free DVD players are available here at Amazon, or you can search the web for instructions on reprogramming your player to "region-free" (i.e., "0" or "zero") status.

5-0 out of 5 stars Suspensefulwith a mind boggling affect!
I loved this book and will be giving it for holiday gifts this year.The philosophical musings are incredibly powerful and thought provoking, while the prose is intense and suspenseful.After page 83, I found myself yelling outloud to the narrator whose journal we read as he attempts to deal with the aftermath of an accident that has stolen his face. I dare you to read this book and look at your self and others the same way you did before. ... Read more

4. Three Plays by Kobo Abe
Paperback: 233 Pages (1997-04-15)
list price: US$29.00 -- used & new: US$29.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0231082819
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Three plays by one of contemporary Japan´s most prominent writers -Involuntary Homicide, The Green Stockings, The Ghost is Here -translated for this volume reveal Kobo Abe's deep love of absurdity in the face of universal concerns. ... Read more

5. Kangaroo Notebook: A Novel
by Kobo Abe
Paperback: 192 Pages (1997-04-29)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.57
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679746633
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
In the last novel written before his death in 1993, one of Japan's most distinguished novelists proffered a surreal vision of Japanese society that manages to be simultaneously fearful and jarringly funny. The narrator of Kangaroo Notebook wakes on morning to discover that his legs are growing radish sprouts, an ailment that repulses his doctor but provides the patient with the unusual ability to snack on himself. In short order, Kobo Abe's unraveling protagonist finds himself hurtling in a hospital bed to the very shores of hell. Abe has assembled a cast of oddities into a coherent novel, one imbued with unexpected meaning. Translated from the Japanese by Maryellen Toman Mori. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

3-0 out of 5 stars It's an acid trip.
Throughout the whole thing, it feels like reality is being covered by a layer of warped glass. The two exceptions are the clinic waiting room near the beginning, and the hospital near the end, which feel out of place amongst all the surreal imagery. Maybe there's some kind of underlying message in the fact that the two most normal scenes take place in institutions of wellness. But this trip is way too far out for me to figure out something like that. A compelling curiosity rather than serious literature.

4-0 out of 5 stars Marsupials, radishes, and hospital beds...
A man wakes up one morning with radish sprouts growing out of his shins. Just the day before, the wise-aleck dropped a note in the suggestion box at work proposing the manufacture of a new product: kangaroo notebooks. Is there a connection?

In the dreamy, surreal world depicted by Kobo Abe, it's not so much that things are connected as that they develop out of each other like the unexpected pattern of a rapidly mutating crystal. Seeking medical attention at a strange urology/dermatology clinic, the narrator of *Kangaroo Notebook* is wheeled into a makeshift operating room only to wake up in a world that may all be a post-op hallucination or--well, it's left up to you decide what else it could possibly be.

In the meantime, the narrator recounts his mock-heroic adventures through a hellish landscape of ghosts, goblin children, ghoulish invalids, and, maybe most peculiarly of all, an American biker. It's like a funhouse ride through an updated Dante's Inferno aboard the self-propelled hospital bed upon which the narrator travels from one bizarre episode to another. What coherence there is to this absurd tragicomedy is strictly of the sort you feel within a complex dream. There's no rhyme or reason to any of it--and, yet, somehow it's rich with the intimations of deep levels of meaning.

It's not particularly hard to write a text like *Kangaroo Notebook.* But it's very hard to do it well. Often such narratives are rambling, arbitrary, and completely dependent on an ever escalating series of shocks--violence, sexual, scatological. All these elements are present in *Kangaroo Notebook,* but Abe manages to imbue it with the `artless' art of a genuine dream--symbolic, transgressive, thematic, enigmatic--and he implants a subtle narrative drive that pushes this comic, yet ultimately disturbing tale forward to its logically illogical and haunting conclusion. *Kangaroo Notebook* is one of the better examples Ive yet come across of a style of wild absurdism that can too often read like an exercise in automatic writing.

A mind-bending novel, Abe's last, and filled with paradox, acute anxiety, and intimations of mortality, *Kangaroo Notebook* is an odd--and yet oddly fitting--final testament from one of the 20th century's more original literary voices.

3-0 out of 5 stars Bizarre
I've enjoyed several of Abe novels, so I decided to try this one.I didn't enjoy it as much as I had his other novels.First of all, you're never really sure if it is a story about someone's real bizarre experience, or if it is a trip through the underworld.At certain points, it's really strange, but then at other points, it is very mundane.Perhaps it is a journey through the underworld, as the underlying theme is death.It explores how to approach the end when it comes.

If you're interested in Abe, then you might want to read this, but if you haven't read Abe before, I recommend trying some of his other books.

4-0 out of 5 stars Kangaroo Notebook
Kangaroo Notebook is a darkly surreal novel, at turns bizarre and ridiculous then just as easily becomes normal and calm. While lacking a sense of continuity through a few odd narrative choices, Kangaroo Notebook remains an interesting experiment into imagination.

One day, our nameless narrator wakes to find that he has radish sprouts growing from his knees. Not particularly alarmed at this, he soon discover to his pleasure that they are edible and quite tasty. A doctor's appointment lands him in the hospital where he is knocked out with drugs. From there, using his trusty Atlas bed as a transportation device, we are led through bizarre scene after bizarre scene, from hairy American martial arts experts to the souls of aborted children who perform plays on the banks of the river Sai for charity.

The narrator is on one hand an interesting fellow - he IS growing radish sprouts from his knees, after all - and his adventures are quite entertaining, but there is a lack within him. He show no great curiosity as to why everything is happening to him, nor does he really seem interested in getting everything back to normal. He is content to go with the flow, and throughout the novel, he acts more as a spectator than an actual character. Almost, but not quite, he is an omniscient narrator, in the sense that his voice does nothing more than record what is happening. Not quite though, because he does participate in a few interesting conversations along the way. Unfortunately, his lack of personality is a definite crutch.

The nameless narrator ricochets from bizarre sequence to stunningly normal locale, then back to bizarre with a speed that is at time dizzying. Often, scene changes are precipitated by the narrator being knocked unconscious, a fairly weak literary device that is used far too often here. The end sequence is the most bizarre of them all, juxtaposing the lengthy normal hospital scene that proceeds it.

The novel ended, to my mind, abruptly and without closure. There is a cryptic message at the end - which, I'll admit, I was expecting something of the sort - but I couldn't really decipher it at first. But, after thinking about the novel for a few hours after I had finished, I realised that the ending was, in fact, perfect.

To my mind, appreciation of this book comes down to a personal choice. If you enjoy bizarre series of events that don't seem to be going anywhere but suddenly illuminate at the end, then by all means read it. If however, you don't like barely connected scenes with a personality-less narrator, steer clear.

5-0 out of 5 stars Inventive, intriquing, ambiguous reading
Kangaroo Notebook is the last book written by Kobo Abe; in many ways, itis a reflection on the approach of death, on being an outsider, and,perhaps, on outsider as a kind of death."Perhaps" because thisbook is written in a very ambiguous style that allows, even encourages,readers to find different interrelationships between the parts.

Thenarrator begins the story at his suggestion in his workplace being selectedas the best - his suggestion, originally a joke, was a product, a kangaroonotebook.This leads to the proposition that marsupials are outcasts - themammal version of each species being more viable than the marsupialcounterpart. Within this context, the narrator notes that his shins aresprouting radishes.

Seeking treatment at a dermatologist is the beginningof a series of occurrences - real, dream, illusion, post-anesthetiaconfusion?This are absolutely delightful, humorous events - a bedtraveling in the city through the narrator's mental efforts, of ahell-based sulfur springs treatment, of child demons, of dead mothers incabbage fields, of an American graduate student studying fatal accidents,of euthansia ...

This astounding romp is a serious consideration ofdeath, our beliefs regarding death (the limbo children) and ofsuicide/murder/euthansia/accident. ... Read more

6. The Ruined Map: A Novel
by Kobo Abe
Paperback: 304 Pages (2001-12-04)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$8.81
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375726527
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Of all the great Japanese novelists, Kobe Abe was indubitably the most versatile. With The Ruined Map, he crafted a mesmerizing literary crime novel that combines the narrative suspense of Chandler with the psychological depth of Dostoevsky.

Mr. Nemuro, a respected salesman, disappeared over half a year ago, but only now does his alluring yet alcoholic wife hire a private eye. The nameless detective has but two clues: a photo and a matchbook. With these he embarks upon an ever more puzzling pursuit that leads him into the depths of Tokyo's dangerous underworld, where he begins to lose the boundaries of his own identity. Surreal, fast-paced, and hauntingly dreamlike, Abe’s masterly novel delves into the unknowable mysteries of the human mind.
Translated from the Japanese by E. Dale Saunders.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

3-0 out of 5 stars Well written awful story.
This book was well written and the translation was good too, but the character is such a jerk, who cares? If you feel compelled to read it, try the library first.

3-0 out of 5 stars Good, but not "The Woman in the Dunes'
I bought this novel in hopes of rekindling that passion I had for 'Woman in the Dunes,' but I was a little disappointed with 'The Ruined Map.' It's still a good novel, but the author, Kobo Abe, seems to get lost in the details. The characters are rich but the story is hazy and unsure. It's still enjoyable to read, but there are lots of other books I would recommend first.

3-0 out of 5 stars Is it fair to ask a man to always live up to his best work?
Kobo Abe became famous with his first novel, The Woman In The Dunes. He deserved the fame. Though written in a very simple style, The Woman In The Dunes has an unworldly atmosphere, simultaneously beautiful and frightening. Its premise is not very realistic, but the description makes it very convincing.

Unfortunately, a man can only write a book like that once, when he is young. After The Woman In The Dunes, Abe became the most prominent avant-garde novelist in Japan. But from that point on, his books became increasingly uninspired and similar to one another. The Ruined Map (1967), The Box Man (1973), and The Ark Sakura (1984) have different storylines, but eventually it becomes obvious that, fundamentally, the three novels are exactly the same.

Every Abe novel after The Woman In The Dunes revolves around some kind of search. The main character is looking for something, or other people lead him to look for something. Abe rarely reveals why it's so important to find this thing, or even what it is. But Abe is a very vague author. His characters talk in oblique hints. It is almost never explained just what they're hinting at. If this irritates you, then you probably won't like Abe's books.

In his vague search, the main character runs into the same three people:

1. "The Helpless Femme Fatale"

This archetype is the main female character in an Abe book. She is usually described sympathetically, as being feminine and vulnerable. However, she also serves to draw the main character into some kind of crisis from which he cannot escape. Abe sometimes drops vague hints that she knows more than she lets on, but this matter is never adequately clarified. In The Box Man, this is the female doctor; in The Ark Sakura, it's the shill's assistant; and here in The Ruined Map, it's the missing man's wife.

2. "The Malicious Observer"

This is always a man who verbally antagonizes the main character. Abe hints that this character not only knows the truth about the main character's situation, but is in some way responsible for it. However, the malicious observer never really does anything. He just stands there and says a lot of very vague words to the main character, hence his status as "observer." In The Box Man, this is the doctor; in The Ark Sakura, it's the shill; in The Ruined Map, it's the woman's brother.

3. "The Dangerous Prey"

Abe's main characters are always searching for the dangerous prey. The dangerous prey doesn't have to actually physically appear (although he does in The Ark Sakura). He's more important for his status as "prey" that the main character must hunt down. However, even if he doesn't physically appear, he still has a great deal of influence over the main character. Along with the helpless femme fatale, he lures the main character into some kind of trap, hence why he is dangerous. In The Box Man, this is the box man; in The Ark Sakura, it's the main character's father; and here, it's the missing man himself.

This formula does not seem to add up to much. Personally, I think that The Box Man is totally unreadable, and The Ark Sakura becomes unreadable by piling on irrelevant, bizarre absurdities as it progresses. But although The Ruined Map is still basically the same novel as the other two, it leaves a much better impression. This is because The Ruined Map is nominally written as a mystery novel, in which a private detective is hired to locate a man who disappeared without a trace. And as it turns out, this genre is perfect for Abe's vague style. Mysteries are supposed to be vague. They're supposed to lead the reader on. After The Woman In The Dunes, Abe does nothing but lead the reader on. It's a perfect match.

Thus, by happy coincidence, the chosen setting makes Abe's style interesting. Most of the book is fairly empty of content, as usual, with endless vague monologues and grotesque imagery. But there are two things that stand out.

First, by virtue of the plot, the helpless femme fatale looks particularly helpless this time around. The way she resorts to alcohol because she can't make sense of what happened to her husband is even touching. She looks truly helpless, more than her counterparts in the other books. This provides an effective contrast to the arrogance of the malicious observer, and to the sleazy places where the main character tries to find clues.

Second, because of the helpless femme fatale, the ending is especially sudden and effective. This is really the last time in Abe's career as a writer when he could create a genuinely powerful scene. In some sense, it lacks substance, because it consists of an absurd event that happens for no particular reason, and without explanation. On the other hand, it perfectly encapsulates a feeling of being overwhelmed by events beyond one's control. And it highlights the pathetic, yet dangerous attraction posed by the helpless femme fatale to the main character. Unsurprisingly, it recalls The Woman In The Dunes.

The Woman In The Dunes is Abe's best work. In comparison, his later novels are superfluous. But, if you really want to read one of them, The Ruined Map is by far the best choice.

4-0 out of 5 stars Truly mind-bending!
Surrealism is not really my cup of tea, but I did enjoy reading this book, which treads on slightly firmer grounds of realism than Abe's other works.The structure is certainly interesting, as the reader is given as few clues to understand the story as the protagonist has in his case, and things get progressively more confusing and unclear.The whole thing has a dreamlike quality to it.I can't say I loved it, but if you are looking for a challenging and slightly avant-garde read with a surrealist bent then this is worth a try.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of Kobo Abe's finest writings
Kobo Abe, one of the greatest surrealistic novelists, liked to depict, with the precise calculation and unconstrained freedom of mind that Picasso gave his work, entangled and precarious relatiionships between an individual and the society to which he "belongs". In "The Ruined Map", Kobo Abe casts spotlight on his lifelong motif from a different angle. Unlike his other books such as "The Box Man" and "Kangaroo Note", "The Ruined Map" is based on a relatively realistic situation. Almost all characters act apparently normally, and there seems to be nothing that makes us question sanity in the situation that surrounds them. The hero, who is a private investigator, is asked to find a young woman's husband who suddenly disappeared several months ago. He tries to find "rational explantions" of her husband's abrupt disapearance, but however, the notion of rationality soon traps him, challenging his conventional understanding of the relationship between an individual and the society. Kobo Abe explores his unique conception of identity with more restrained techniques of surrealism than in his most famous work "The Women in the Dunes". Yet, an insightful reader should realize that Abe ingeniously embedded the surrealistic subject in a realistic setting. ... Read more

7. The Box Man: A Novel
by Kobo Abe
Paperback: 192 Pages (2001-07-10)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.76
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375726519
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

Kobo Abe, the internationally acclaimed author of Woman in the Dunes, combines wildly imaginative fantasies and naturalistic prose to create narratives reminiscent of the work of Kafka and Beckett.

In this eerie and evocative masterpiece, the nameless protagonist gives up his identity and the trappings of a normal life to live in a large cardboard box he wears over his head. Wandering the streets of Tokyo and scribbling madly on the interior walls of his box, he describes the world outside as he sees or perhaps imagines it, a tenuous reality that seems to include a mysterious rifleman determined to shoot him, a seductive young nurse, and a doctor who wants to become a box man himself. The Box Man is a marvel of sheer originality and a bizarrely fascinating fable about the very nature of identity.

Translated from the Japanese by E. Dale Saunders.
Amazon.com Review
The nature of identity itself is the ostensible subject ofthis bizarrely fascinating existential novel from the great Japanesefiction writer and dramatist Kobo Abe. In the story, a man decides togive up the self that he has been all his life to attain a state ofblissful anonymity. He leaves his world behind and moves onto thestreets of Tokyo. He puts a large box over his head, cuts a hole forhis eyes. It is as strange as it sounds, but Abe's light touch andnarrative innovation makes it compelling. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

2-0 out of 5 stars Don't take this out of the box
I picked this up on a whim at the library and read the back:

"...the nameless protagonist gives up his identity and the trappings of a normal life to live in a large cardboard box he wears over his head."

I thought that sounded like an intriguing concept and have enjoyed other works by Abe in the past and his Kafka-esque sense of reality so I took it out.

I was quite disappointed once I finished it.I did not enjoy reading The Box Man and struggled to finish it.

There are things I liked about it - the concept is intriguing, the intricate narrative structure, and I liked the mystery of just who the Box Man is.It is also quite original but that alone doesn't make it a good book.The Box Man simply isn't a pleasure to read, the story and the characters are about as compelling as watching grass grow, it's overwritten, pretentious, boring, and at less than 200 pages, too long.I also think that Abe explores the nature of identity much better in his other books, particularly The Ruined Map: A Novel.Here it just seems forced and muddled.

If you're going to read Abe, I recommend the aforementioned Ruined Map or The Woman in the Dunes over this.

5-0 out of 5 stars It's hip to be square...
Having put off reading this book until I moved back to Tokyo I'd say the box man mentality fits nicely with foreigners trying to understand Japan.Someone first descibed living in Tokyo to me like floating in a warm bubble.Unless you speak the language or fit in culturally you'll always be a casual observer.The longer you stay in that bubble the more distorted your view becomes.For those on the fringes of Japanese society it's easy to see how one might simply want to stick a box on their head and call it a day.

Aside from the obvious Japanese angle on things Abe weaves a nice commentary on communication in general.Mary M. Watkins' "Invisible Guests" treads a similar path by examining how we construct imaginary personas.Over time what we imagine and what we experience blend into the same thing.Part of the appeal in reading The Box Man is that we're dumped right into the main character(s) head and it's left up to us to figure how many people and scenarios are actually "real".For all we know the whole thing might be in the box man's head - or not.The uncertainty when reading it can be rather disorienting.Anyone who reads it is ultimately a box man themselves; a passive observer just trying to digest some weirdness.His reality is in now your head whether you like it or not.

1-0 out of 5 stars Completely nonessential.
I think of The Box Man by Kobo Abe and I try to recall one memorable image, or one compelling character, or one trenchant observation, or indeed one particularly inventive or colourful turn of phrase. I can't come up with a single one. It baffles me how someone can write something as memorable, compelling, trenchant, inventive and colourful as Woman in the Dunes, and then write something as devoid of any of these qualities as The Box Man. My only explanation is that this was written by a Kobo Abe from a strange parallel universe where Abe never wrote anything good, and somehow made its way here through a rift in space and time.

Upon picking up The Box Man and reading the first page, I naively and laughably thought that this was to be a sort of social commentary or just a story about homeless people. No, that wasn't at all the case. Apparently, unlike a regular homeless person, a "box man" has some sort of extremely deep philosophy that singles him out as someone who lives on a higher plane of existence. Except after reading the book, I came not a bit closer to understanding what this philosophy is, or to caring about finding out. This was exacerbated by Abe's extremely self-indulgent style, in which no concern is exhibited for time or flow, random unidentified narrators come and go with no warning, pages and pages are occupied with pseudo-intellectual "societal observations" and uninteresting non sequiturs, and so forth.

Keep in mind that such a style doesn't have to be bad. Plenty of authors like to jump around in time and make up their own stylistic rules. Plenty of authors like to wax eloquent about society. Plenty of authors come up with absurd premises and make great works out of them. But there are authors who do this well, and those who do not. The Box Man has laughably been called "surreal." But something like, say, Un Chien Andalou, though it also has absolutely no actual narrative structure, is chock full of striking images, which are memorable despite having nothing to do with reality or even with each other. The Box Man tries to be like that. It tries very, very hard, and it is very self-conscious about it. But it fails, because there is nothing above the norm in it - just a desire to "break conventions" for the sake of breaking conventions, to break conventions as a substitute for narrative, commentary, characterization, originality, emotion, and any worthwhile thought. Supposedly there is a nominal narrative here (there's something about an unsolved murder in places), and supposedly there's an existential parable here (some people ask themselves and each other some wooden and ham-handed questions about existence), but really, there is nothing even original (to say nothing of "masterful") about any of this. And don't even get me started on the oh-so-affected "photo inserts" with their oh-so-affected captions.

Woman in the Dunes leaves me spellbound, but The Box Man is an utter waste of time. It's shorter than Woman in the Dunes (178 pages in my edition) but every single line is an excruciating exercise in tedium. And as you read, you'll get the feeling that Abe is deliberately insulting your intelligence by writing such pretentious nonsense when he has shown himself to be capable of masterpieces. Stay far, far away from this "novel."

5-0 out of 5 stars at least seven fierce dogs to avoid within the city
a contemporary novel of fragmented identity which examines the ultimate failure of signification...so comparisons to beckett are pretty relevant i would say. as with beckett, 'the box man' confronts readers with a real rupture of traditional narrator/reader relationships, and delivers the narrative in such a dispersed manner that you are really left without a cohesive idea of what agency gave you the information you read. the real box man, the fake box man, the real doctor, the fake doctor...all of these are thrown out there for you to sort out. characters begin to refer to ideas or possible actions rather than tangible indentities. in the end, abe tells a story of the contemporary predicament of representation and the psychology of a society in which we increasing interact with representations of things rather than the things themselves. the box man is a man who, saturated with the mediated representations of radio and television, is unable to have normal human interactions with people, he can only look and never be looked at. 'the box man' is an excellent treatment of these very relevant contemporary cultural issues, a frustrating read, but an excellent novel.

5-0 out of 5 stars This book is realer then reality
I won't compare this book with all the other books out there, like my fellow reviewers did, I don't think that's fair. The book describes a man who lives in a box. This book describes everything with such clarity and surreal realness that its impossible not to believe what is written. ... Read more

8. Beyond the Curve (Modern Japanese Writers Series)
by Kobo Abe, Juliet Winters Carpenter
Paperback: 248 Pages (1993-02)
list price: US$9.00 -- used & new: US$49.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 4770016905
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
A collection of works including such stories as "An Irrelevant Death," "The Dream Soldier," "Dendrocalia," "The SpecialEnvoy," and "The Crime of S. Karma". ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars Hit and miss, but mostly hit
KA is best known as a novelist, but his short fiction, here in "BTC" is quite engaging.It's too bad this book is not more widely available.Kafka is a strong influence throughout - somewhat shamelessly at times, but who cares:good writing is good writing.'Intruders' is the best in the collection, about a strange family that knocks on a man's apartment door in the middle of the night and proceeds to take over his apartment and life, making him into a sort of servant.In the opening story, a man comes home to find a corpse in his bed.His decision making is engaging.A few of the stories are duds, but that's generally the case.Worth the time, if you like KA's novels, and Japanese fiction, especially Murakami, who was clearly influenced by KA.

3-0 out of 5 stars Surrealism
This collection of short stories by Kobo Abe was a challenge for me.I don't generally enjoy short stories that much, and my interest in surrealism is limited.Still, I found them compelling despite the tendency toward studies in frustration."Intruders" was especially so, with the protagonist powerless against those taking over first his apartment, then his livelihood, and finally his life.My favorite story was "Beguiled," where in a confrontation between two men, one is the pursuer, the other the pursued . . . but which is which?This book was translated from Japanese, and although some of the phrasing seems awkward at times, it actually enhances the overall surrealism of Abe's writing.Definitely worth reading, but only worth full price if this is your favorite genre.Try the local library or used book shop.

4-0 out of 5 stars Beyond realism
This collection of short stories, translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter, is a surreal foray into the illogical and improbable.Kobo Abe is the kind of writer who reminds one of other writers.His Kafkaesque "An Irrelevant Death" places an unexplained corpse in the apartment of A- who must then decide how to dispose of it without suspicion.In another story that recalls Kafka, "Dendrocacalia," a man named Common experiences an unexpected metamorphosis into a rare and sought-after plant.But not all stories evoke Kafka."The Life of a Poet" embraces the lyrical mythology of Latin American magic realism as a crone is accidentally made into thread and a deadly snow falls made of "crystalline dreams, souls, and desires."Lewis Carroll's convoluted logic surfaces in "The Bet" when an architect for a particular demanding advertising company discovers a world of small doors, head-shaking conversations, and stairs that lead not to an expected succession of floors but instead to places governed by a red light and adages.The bizarre building teaches the architect the logic of the illogical.When he designs "the path of the president's office as a mathematical function of the System," he resolves the story in an entirely fitting way.

Despite the derivative feel to these stories, they are distinctly Abe's.His Japanese sensibilities give them a different twist, for while Kafka chose to change his character into a cockroach, Abe chooses instead to transform his bewildered character into a scrubby plant that grows at high altitudes and which would be quite at home in a government funded hothouse.The author's confidence in the wildness of his imagination gives these stories an authority of voice, allowing for the needed suspension of disbelief. Abe's fictional realm is a difficult one to leave.

It took me a couple of stories to fully appreciate Abe's talents, but I'm glad I continued reading.Readers of Japanese and international fiction should most definitely take a look at Abe's work.Don't expect realism - or anything close to it - because Kobo Abe's fiction exists on another plane.

4-0 out of 5 stars Really good
I really recommend this book, although I only gave it four stars because the stories might be too similar to each other for my taste. I'd like just a little more variety in the range of emotions and plot twists. It is easy to say that Abe is good, of course, because he is such a widely recognized writer. I'd like to say, though, that he is so good that he can actually make a reader angry (many of his stories create a feeling of boxed-in, controlled frustration I never encountered in any other writer).

5-0 out of 5 stars One of Japan's greatestliterary exports!
Beyond the Curve by Kobo Abe is one of the best compilations of short stories I've read.His style is like a blend of Rod Serling, Stephen King and Salvador Dali.Each tale is strange and unique and tests the limits ofyour imagination.As much as I like his other books, this one is myfavorite because it runs the gamut of his storytelling style from novelslike Woman in the Dunes to the outrageously surreal Kangaroo Notebook.Ifyou haven't read any of Abe's work, Beyond the Curve is a greatintroduction. ... Read more

9. The Ark Sakura (Vintage International)
by Kobo Abe
Paperback: 352 Pages (2009-02-10)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$8.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307389634
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
A classic from the renowned Japanese novelist about isolation and the threat of a nuclear holocaust, The Ark Sakura is as timely today as it was at its original publication.

In this Kafkaesque allegorical fantasy, Mole has converted a huge underground quarry into an “ark” capable of surviving the coming nuclear holocaust and is now in search of his crew. He falls victim, however, to the wiles of a con man-cum-insect dealer. In the surreal drama that ensues, the ark is invaded by a gang of youths and a sinister group of elderly people called the Broom Brigade, led by Mole's odious father, while Mole becomes trapped in the ark's central piece of equipment, a giant toilet powerful enough to flush almost anything, including chopped-up humans, out to sea. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

1-0 out of 5 stars Novel is a weird waste of paper..
The plot of this book is absurd.A survivualist tries to find "crew" for his underground "ship".Various odd things happen, some including crude toilet humor, and nobody cares what happens.I hated this book by the time I was finished.It isn't the very worst book I've read, but it's close.Only read this if you're a masochist.

5-0 out of 5 stars Expert modern fable
Thematically, this novel is similar to Abe's more famous book, 'The Woman in the Dunes;' it emphasizes a sense of community and connection with others. What I like about it (among other things) is that it's hardly a sledgehammer philosophical message; it allows for vaguery. The main character is a misanthrope whose personal philosophy seems to be the target of criticism, yet he is never overtly punished and is capable of questioning his views. The other characters are liars, criminals and dirty old men, but all are made sympathetic to some degree in the face of global holocaust. As far as the writing goes, it is very straightforward. I think Abe does an amazing job of both developing character and allowing the reader to visualize such an outlandish setting as the Ark.

3-0 out of 5 stars This ark has a few leaks....
Pig, who prefers to be called Mole, has taken up residence in an abandoned stone quarry, slowly converting it into an ark to save humanity during the inevitable nuclear holocaust.He has room for a little over 300 people to become his crew, but must be selective in his choosing.Only those who he deems acceptable will be offered safe harbor in his huge ship.

During one of his few outings to buy provisions for the ark, he comes across Komono, an insect dealer, and after lunching with him, offers one of the keys to the ark.Komono asks if he can think on it and walks off to use the bathroom.In the meantime, two sakura, or shills, trick Mole into giving up two keys.They immediately make a run for the ark, followed by Komono and Mole in hot pursuit.When they reach the ark, they discover that they are not alone in the depths of the quarry.

The remainder of the book discusses a wide variety of topics from old age in the form of the Broom Brigade, environmentalism, survivalism, murder, loyalty, sex, humanity and nuclear devastation.More and more chaacters are added as the book progresses, each with a different story to tell, making it difficult to follow along and unenjoyable to read.I still am not sure exactly what point the author is trying to make with this novel, or even if there is a point to it.The characters themselves were not believable to me, especially Mole, a big, fat man who is obsessed with the end of the world and the female shill's behind, continually wanting to pat it even when his life is in danger.

The only saving grace for me is Abe's writing.He has a very fluid style that's descriptive and easy to read. But, with the piling on of characters and story lines, I can't say that I would add this to a must-read list.

2-0 out of 5 stars Don't bother.
In many ways, The Ark Sakura is practically a rewrite of The Box Man, an earlier Abe novel which I greatly disliked. Note just how much from that novel recurs here: there's your mysterious and often antagonistic figure of "the pretender," the doctor in The Box Man and the "shill" in The Ark Sakura; there's his nameless female companion who often acts excessively girlish but who, it is stressed with much pomposity, never reveals her "true nature"; and there's a bizarre murder mystery which appears out of nowhere, is constantly mentioned, but never is explained. Also instantly recognizable from The Box Man is Abe's infuriating noodling - all those nonsensical metaphors for life with all the subtlety of a plum pudding, described lovingly in the most roundabout style imaginable, in which very many words are expended with very little meaning. The canonical example of this in The Ark Sakura is, without a doubt, the "eupcaccia," a legless and completely fictional insect. Abe takes great pains to describe it, with all the grotesque details that will make you wish he'd just stop, and of course, _of course_ finishes with "At the risk of sounding pretentious, let me say I believe that the eupcaccia is symbolic of a certain philosophy or way of life." This is predictably referred back to countless times later, with phrases along the lines of "If only humanity decided to live more like the eupcaccia!" I hate to be the one to say it, but yes, sir, you do sound pretentious, and your metaphor makes no sense.

It's not a total loss. For all the similarity to The Box Man, The Ark Sakura is certainly better. It's about twice as long as The Box Man, but reads _very_ quickly; it took me only a few hours. There's only one mercifully short occasion where Abe delves into the incomprehensible nonsense that comprised most of The Box Man. That is to say, this time around he actually remembered to include an actual _story_ along with his philosophical burbling. And the story is by far the most successful part of the novel - the whole idea of the "ark" is so good that it really deserves a better book to be built around it. The same goes for the twist in the ending. With the exception of the very end, however, for the entire second half of the book Abe is too enamoured of his own cleverness for his own good. Hence we get the thrilling tale of The Broom Brigade (intimidating, is it not?), which is a neofascist militant cult comprised entirely of retired old men who make a living by sweeping the streets. I don't blame you if you're blankly staring at the preceding sentence trying to make sense of it; rest assured, there's none to be made. With the appearance of The Broom Brigade on the scene, the book falls headfirst into a bog of meaninglessness from which it does not emerge until the last two pages. It's vaguely reminiscent of Beckett's Pozzo, except more ridiculous and, in this setting, rather artless; with the way the story "develops," the whole backdrop becomes completely irrelevant and an initially promising premise is wasted. Abe's entitled to all the postmodernist irony he can exude, no doubt, but it won't make his books good. I've heard it said that he concentrates on "the inner workings of people's minds," but in my view he doesn't concentrate on people at all; he has some vaguely defined notions that he'd like us to pay attention to, and by and large, he only bothers with his characters insofar as he can make them reflect those notions. As a result, he creates neither convincing people nor a convincing philosophy. So, read Woman in the Dunes, a novel deservedly added to the modernist canon, but feel no obligation to explore Abe's other "works"; you're not missing much.

5-0 out of 5 stars Kobo Abe, Japanese Beckett
A truly weird and amusing novel, Ark Sakura by Kobo Abe (The Woman in the Dunes) has the extraordinary ability to abolish your everyday reality in favor of its vivid, voyeuristic depiction of the bizarre consequences of anutterly unsupervised reality, a twisted kindergarten of mad adults,ungoverned and unpredictable.the Mole has retreated, along with hisdisturbing family background and unpleasant appearance, into a secret worldbeneath the crust of Japan, and in these dank, reverberating caverns of anabandoned underground quarry has been able to rejuvenate his despairingperspectives by creating a smaller living world from the refuse of anothergreater world, utterly self-sufficient, certainly more than capable ofsurviving and surviving well any imminent global apocalypse.setting offinto the common life above ground, having decided it is time to considerpopulating his subterranean ark in preparation for the expectedcatastrophe, Mole encounters a peculiar group of human cast-offs, allbecoming irrevocably enmeshed in a strange and surreal tale that is abeautiful open sore in the skin of the human condition.admirers ofBeckett will be unable to resist Kobo Abe's magnificent ability to evokesituations and settings at the same time vast and apparently endless, yetisolating and confining; fantastic prisons of the exiled and forgotton. ... Read more

10. Inter Ice Age 4
by Kobo; Saunders, E. Dale Abe
 Mass Market Paperback: Pages (1972)

Asin: B000TXZXJG
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Abe's best entertaining novel
I think I am familiar with Abe's works quite well. I've read all his works including short stories, plays, essays, interviews and novels (in Japanese). (I first encountered with his work when I was in a junior high school in Japan. One of his short stories was in the junior high's Contemporary Japanese textbook. That introduced me to "The Crime of Mr. S. Karma", but it was a bit too tough for the junior high kid.) I read his works quite extensively while he was completing "Box Man". After its publication, I claimed myself Abe's devoted fan. Since "Ark Sakura", I somewhat lost interest in his works, but I still readall his publications.

If someone asked me what is his best novel, I'd say it's "Box Man", but "Inter-Ice age 4" is his novel I enjoyed the most. Like "Face of Another", it's a suspense story and easy to read. Its theme, the present is to be judged by its future, is clear, too. Also, I particularly like its prologue and epilogue; they're very poetic.

Abe is probably best known by his deep thinking and explosive creativity, but he is an excellent Sci-Fi writer, too. Abe's philosophical works are good to read, but his entertaining works are also fun to read. I feel "Inter Ice age 4" is under-evaluated (in Japan, too).

Yes, "Inter Ice age 4" is my best favorite.

5-0 out of 5 stars Twisted Science Fiction
In Abe's novel 'Inter Ice Age 4', he explores the edge of psychological science fiction.The character at the center of this tale is Dr. Katsumi, a scientist who sets out to created an AI computer capable of predicting the future, in imitation of a successful Soviet model.As he get closer to his objective, the government begins putting up obstacles to slow his progress.He is no longer allowed to test political questions on his machine, but when he tries to develop questions that will be acceptable to the committe overseeing his research, it turns out that everything is connected to politics.Finally he decides to reduce the scale of his research.He'll focus on a single human instead.He goes out with his assistant to choose a suitable subject.Later, they are surprised to learn that the subject they chose has been murdered.This murder pulls Dr. Katsumi unwillingly into a conspiracy that involves genetic engineer on a massive scale.

This novel is surprisingly fresh for a novel that was written in 1958.The topics covered--AI computers, genetic engineering, and global warming are all very current.The story spirals to a tense conclusion, so the reader is pulled in.The story also has a strong psychological edge.It explores the difference between what a person wants to do and what a person has to do.Also, it brings up a lot a questions about the nature of the future.Can people in the present judge the future?Abe argues that the future cannot be judged.In Abe's words, who could say whether the people from the past would consider our present a heaven or a hell.Only the present can judge the past, not vice versa.

For those who aren't sure where this fits into science fiction, I think I could recommend this to fans of Phillip Dick.It has a similar dark undertone with a strong psychological basis.

5-0 out of 5 stars Perhaps Abe's Most Surreal
This was a beautiful book by Abe, and certainly the most engaging one for me. The dire outlook on the future, the concept of genteic engineering, is frightening in view of the world we live in today as opposed to when KoboAbe first wrote this book. I would certainly recommend this to any lover ofJapanese fiction. ... Read more

11. Abe Kobo: An Exploration of His Prose, Drama and Theatre (Tessere)
by Timothy Iles
Paperback: 232 Pages (2002-02)
list price: US$27.00 -- used & new: US$19.52
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 8883980034
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12. The Woman in the Dunes
by Kobo (Translated by E. Dale Saunders) ABE
 Paperback: Pages (1986)

Asin: B0014YC2DO
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13. Sublime Voices: The Fictional Science and Scientific Fiction of Abe Kōbō (Harvard East Asian Monographs)
by Christopher Bolton
Hardcover: 332 Pages (2009-06-15)
list price: US$39.95 -- used & new: US$39.05
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Asin: 0674032780
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

Since the 1950s, Abe Kobo (1924–1993) has achieved an international reputation for his surreal or grotesque brand of avant-garde literature. From his early forays into science fiction to his more mature psychological novels and films, and finally the complicated experimental works produced near the end of his career, Abe weaves together a range of “voices”: the styles of science and the language of literary forms.

In Abe’s oeuvre, this stylistic interplay links questions of language and subjectivity with issues of national identity and technological development in a way that ultimately aspires to become the catalyst for an artistic revolution. While recognizing the disruptions such a revolution might entail, Abe’s texts embrace these disjunctions as a way of realizing radical new possibilities beyond everyday experience and everyday values.

By arguing that the crisis of identity and postwar anomie in Abe’s works is inseparable from the need to ­marshal these different scientific and literary voices, Christopher Bolton explores how this reconciliation of ideas and dialects is for Abe part of the process whereby texts and individuals form themselves—a search for identity that must take place at the level of the self and society at large.

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Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars An interesting and extensive exploration of Abe's work
I was turned on to Kobo Abe way back in undgrad school by a fellow English major.Later, when I was getting my MFA in Photography, I obsessively read his entire body of work because it was important to my style of visual narrative at the time.

"Sublime Voices" by its nature is probably a niche book .. I mean, I don't know too many people outside academia who are interested in Abe ... but for years I have been searching for and reading every critical work I could locate on Kobo Abe.Bolton's book is perfect for me, for I view my photographic practices as "science," both in the darkroom and at the pixel level. Beyond that it is also an excellent look at Abe's work from a different perspective ... the collision and love between science and literature.

I am enjoying reading this as much as I enjoy (re)reading a Kobo Abe novel.

5-0 out of 5 stars Full Table of Contents
The full table of contents for this book is as follows:

Introduction. Abe Kobo's Dictionary

Chapter 1. Transforming Science:Metamorphosis in Abe's Life and Work

Chapter 2. Abe's Essays and Some Historical Distinctions Between Literature and Science

Chapter 3. Whirring Clicking Poetry:"Inter Ice Age 4"

Chapter 4. The Dialogue of Styles, the Dance of Fiction,and "The Face of Another"

Chapter 5. The Hope of Technology and the Technology of Hope in "The Woman in the Dunes"

Chapter 6. The Parody, Perversity, and Cacophony of "Secret Rendezvous"

Chapter 7. A Technology of Silence: "The Ark Sakura" and the Nuclear Threat

Notes, List of Works Cited, Index ... Read more

14. Le sanatorium des malades du temps: Temps, attente et fiction, autour de Julien Gracq, Dino Buzzati, Thomas Mann, Kobo Abe (French Edition)
by Eric Faye
 Paperback: 236 Pages (1996)
-- used & new: US$49.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 2714305806
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15. Literaturlexikon 20. Jahrhundert 1: Abe, Kobo & Goyen, William
by Herausgegeben Von Helmut Olles
 Paperback: Pages (1971)

Asin: B0041UGK68
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16. Fake Fish: The Theater Of Kobo Abe
by Nancy Shields
Paperback: 192 Pages (1996-04-01)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$63.85
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0834803542
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17. Abe Kobo (Shincho Nihon bungaku arubamu) (Japanese Edition)
Tankobon Hardcover: 111 Pages (1994)
-- used & new: US$74.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 4106206552
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18. Friends: [Play]
by KObO, Abe
 Hardcover: Pages (1969-01)
list price: US$3.95
Isbn: 039447564X
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19. The Man Who Turned into a Stick: Three Related Plays
 Hardcover: 84 Pages (1975-12)
list price: US$14.50
Isbn: 0860081478
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20. Mort Anonyme (French Edition)
by Abe Kobo
Mass Market Paperback: 218 Pages (1995-09-01)
-- used & new: US$27.74
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 2253932426
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