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Secret Rendezvous (Vintage International) by…
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Secret Rendezvous (Vintage International) (edition 2002)

by Kobo Abe

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265542,932 (3.55)1 / 21
Member:SqueakyChu
Title:Secret Rendezvous (Vintage International)
Authors:Kobo Abe
Info:Vintage (2002), Edition: Reprint, Paperback. Copyrights 1977, 1979.
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:Japanese fiction

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Secret Rendezvous by Kōbō Abe

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Showing 5 of 5
I have finished [Secret Rendezvous] just now which was simultaneously mesmerizing and confounding, fairly typical of Abe. Having turned the last page, I started thinking about what it was I had just read and what it all meant and I found that to understand this book, I had to compare it to other Abe works. Thus, my review might turn more into an essay as I compare it briefly to [Face of Another] and [The Box Man]. Although I don't believe Abe really has "spoilers" as he does not write in a traditional way, I do warn that this review(/essay) will refer to specific plot points and will offer my idea of what the book is about, which might skew your own thoughts if you choose to read the book yourself. If you do decide to continue reading, I hope you find what will probably become a rambling, interesting.

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The back of the book and most other internet users will summarize the book as such: An ambulance arrives uncalled in the middle of the night to take away a man's wife despite her claims that she is perfectly fine. The unnamed protagonist is left to find her, but when he arrives at the hospital things are atypical of a hospital visit. In his attempt to find his wife, the man becomes employed by a horse as chief of security and tunnels his way through the labyrinth of a hospital to find her. As he searches, he becomes entwined with slues of strange characters, voyeur to sexual experiments and falls to a sort of mental manipulation. The quote on the back of the book states that this is Abe's "nightmarish vision of modern medicine and modern life". Others on the internet appreciate the feel of the novel but some are not quite sure what they have just read.

This is where I look at his other works to understand, or at least, to attempt.

Abe, as I have come to understand him, likes to write about identity and the preservation of, or, destruction of identity within and outside the parameters of society. With [Face of Another] he explored the idea of the face and the face's physical influence on identity. When the character's face was destroyed, he was left to either rebuild his same face and recreate his once persona, or build a new face and attempt to create a new persona. But it was up to society to decide which persona was allowed to come out. In [The Box Man], Abe once again explored the idea of identity when the character wished to escape the eyes of society and limit his world to that of a box. Initially he was doing fine until society knocked on his box trying to shake him out of what was considered un-society-like, thus creating a character trying to kill him. [Secret Rendezvous] is really just a retelling of these similar themes.

Presentation of the book as a series of notebooks.
The wife.
A character set to kill the main character or to shake him and bring him back into the eyes of "regular" society.
An enclosure where the character is constantly running, escaping.

All in all it comes to the same. The character, once a working member of society, has fallen prey to some sort of accident. In this case, an incident based on self repression of sexual thought due to wanting to fit into societal norms despite a strong sexual appetite. As often happens when people fall ill to what is considered atypical and not part of the norm, he becomes an outcast and starts to fall more into delinquency until in the end, he loses his own identity. And the book is his quest to find it and to return to normal (represented by his wife, who has most likely left him in real life). However, in his quest to find himself he just progressively loses himself even more until the hospital remains this perpetual labyrinth where toilets turn into secret passageways and festivals are actually secret plots and elevators don't seem to go to the second floor. Abe gives many hints to the reader about where reality is to be found. He often quotes "Doctors make the best patients and patients the best doctors", and just like the horse tells the man (as the protagonist is called) that the secret of his dilemma lies in the first part of the tapes he has to listen to, the secret of the book likes in the first page: the realistic introduction of the characters and his hobbies as might be written in the page of a doctor's notebook. More importantly, the notebook of a doctor based in psychiatry. And the notebooks of the character are really an attempt by the doctor to find the source of his patient's problems by having the patient investigate himself.

With this I just find it truly amazing what Abe can present. At the same time, presenting the downfall of a character while showing the limitations of a society when presented with the extremes of society's pleasures, in this case, sexual desire. In the wanting of society to dumb down and bring modesty to sexual desire and lust, and the wanting of science to understand where it comes from, both lose their ability to see it as its most basic form. And when something becomes taboo, extremes are formed which causes even more confusion and desire.

So Abe's ability to show how identity shapes society and vice versa is just remarkable and it's what makes me such a fan. I can't wait till the next one. ( )
3 vote lilisin | May 22, 2013 |
The feelings of it make sense, but I could not say what the facts were.
  LizaHa | Apr 1, 2013 |
For those of you familiar with the works of Kobo Abe, be prepared for another wild ride in Secret Rendevous. Our narrator, "the man", is in search of his wife. She had been transported away from home by ambulance in the middle of the night although no one reported a medical emergency nor had anything been wrong with her. In the morning, "the man" decides to follow up on his wife's mysterious disappearance.

"The man" finds the hospital into which he believes his wife disappeared and begins more earnest attempts to find her. His search is bizarre. He is told by his friend, "the horse", to keep a notebook of his quest and record himself in the third person (hence "the man"). What ensues is a strange, sexy, almost funny search through a hospital which we soon realize is actually some sort of a labyrinth.

This book is divided into three notebooks and an epilogue. You probably will have no idea what's going on until you begin the third notebook. It's all very confusing, but I think I did well in trying to understand it. I've given up trying to understand Abe's works while I read them, however I find them to be exceptionally well written, detailed, and of great interest.

Is this novel a social satire? I don't know. As in The Woman in the Dunes and The Box Man, two other works of Abe which I found intriguing, this is a genuinely fun work to attempt to decipher. Try it! ( )
  SqueakyChu | Dec 9, 2012 |
Secret Rendezvous is a delightfully absurd and confounding novel. It opens with an unnamed man--all the characters in the book are nameless with the exception of one very minor character--going to an abandoned army target range where a person or creature known as "the horse" is training itself to run on four legs. The horse gives the man an assignment to conduct an investigation. The man assumes it is to investigate his own wife's disappearance. Instead, the subject of the investigation is the man himself. He is to listen to surveillance tapes the horse gives him and write a comprehensive report and analysis of his own activities over the past few days, beginning with the day his wife disappeared.

The man is a sales representative for a company making athletic shoes. One night he and his wife are awakened by the arrival of an ambulance. The medics say they have orders to take the wife to the hospital. Both she and her husband are too dumbfounded to resist, nor does it occur to the man that he should ride in the ambulance with her. He doesn't even know to which hospital they have taken her. The following morning, after questioning ambulance personnel, he finally arrives at the correct hospital and confirms with the night watchman that his wife was dropped off at the emergency entrance, but there is no record or trace of her from that point. Nor does anyone in the hospital seem to care that somewhere in the bowels of the hospital is a perfectly healthy woman, lost and confused, with no money or ID and wearing nothing but a skimpy nightgown.

The man eventually assumes the guise of a security staff member so he can explore the hospital on his own. He finds it is an immense labyrinth, more underground than above, with many wings long abandoned and buried. He also discovers that there is an obsession for eavesdropping, with every room bugged and many pieces of clothing containing hidden microphones. Related to this is the discovery that the chief specialty of the hospital--and the obsession of all of its staff--is research into sexual behavior and dysfunction.

To call Secret Rendezvous "enigmatic" would be an understatement. The novel is a labyrinth with no way out. It is absurd, entertaining, funny, erotic, and sometimes disturbing. The most pervasive element is voyeurism, with the watcher watching the watcher watching the watcher... many levels deep at some points, culminating (or maybe not?) with the reader, perplexed but amused. ( )
5 vote StevenTX | Jun 8, 2012 |
Secret Rendezvous is one of Kobo Abe's lesser known novels. It is however still a superb novel from one of Japan's postmodern masters. The story opens with a man and a horse man. The horse man will be developed much later, but we our focus is the man. The narrative takes the shape of three "notebooks" representing his memories of the events surrounding his wife's disappearance, and the bizarre hospital where she was taken. The symbol of his wife being taken away by ambulance while protesting that she is healthy invokes a real sense of fascism. There are many undercurrents, but this theme will be revisited time and time again throughout the novel, the power of doctors and health providers over patients.

Kobo Abe has achieved with Secret Rendezvous what William Burroughs had attempted for much of his career: a surreal examination of the psychosexual nature of power structures. This is as strange as anything that Burroughs had ever conceived of. Abe works from that same sense of otherness, but with much less of a prurient nature. Whereas Burroughs seemed to want to challenge the puritans and conformists of the 50's Abe doesn't seem to care. This distance from your reaction allows the novel to unfold with a much more natural feel. The sex and surrealism floats off the pages delicately, not ripping forward like Burroughs.

Abe's use of language aids this more delicate touch. Japanese, even in translation, is a language of poetry and metaphor. Abe uses this to bring you into the depths of the character. In a scene set in an underground wing of the hospital, the scene comes to life slowly like a boiling teapot. By the end of the description Abe has given birth to a scene so real that you can smell the earthiness. While this novel is quite troubling in some parts, in others funny, and the mood twists and turns with the unnamed man's journey. Abe is not for the easily offended, or those who seek conventional literature. However he is a master at surrealism that feels natural, as if this reality, however twisted, is just how it should be.

http://pissandvinegar.vox.com/library/post/secret-rendezvous-by-kobo-abe.html ( )
2 vote finalbroadcast | Jul 10, 2007 |
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Carpenter, Juliet WintersTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375726543, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:28 -0400)

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