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Kōbō Abe (1924–1993)

Author of The Woman in the Dunes

95+ Works 7,797 Members 138 Reviews 56 Favorited

About the Author

Kobo Abe is the pseudonym of Kimifusa Abe, who was born in Tokyo, Japan on March 7 1924. He was brought up in Manchuria where he lived with his father, a doctor of the hosipital attached to the Imperial Medical Colledge of Manchuria. In elementary school, he was educated in the experimental way, in show more which a teacher trained children to debating and rapid reading. Abe went back to Tokyo and went to Sejo Koko High School, a famous private school. He was later admitted to the faculty of medicine of Tokyo University. In 1944, Abe heard that Japan would lose the war before long and he forged a medical certificate to get home to Manchuria. He earned his medical degree in 1948, but never practiced. After graduation he began his writing career and became a member of a literary group led by Kiyoteru Hamada. Often compared to Kafka , he treated the contemporary human predicament in a realistic yet symbolic style. In 1951 he got the Akutagawa Award by his first masterpiece, Kabe (The Walls). Among Abe's novels are Woman in the Dunes, published in 1962 and made into a film in 1964, and his best-known work, Secret Rendezvous. His plays include Friends, published in 1967. The first of his short stories to appear in English were collected in Beyond the Curve, 1944-66. Abe died in 1993. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Kôbô Abe

Works by Kōbō Abe

The Woman in the Dunes (1964) 3,063 copies
The Box Man (1973) 972 copies
The Face of Another (1966) 751 copies
The Ruined Map (1967) 649 copies
The Ark Sakura (1984) 480 copies
Secret Rendezvous (1977) 462 copies
Inter Ice Age 4 (1959) 374 copies
Kangaroo Notebook (1991) 364 copies
Beyond the Curve (1991) 218 copies
Friends: A Play (1967) 72 copies
Woman in the Dunes [1964 film] (1964) — Writer — 43 copies
Beasts Head for Home (2017) 36 copies
Three Plays by Kobo Abe (1993) 35 copies
The Wall (1951) 26 copies
The Unrelated Death (1964) 16 copies
Die Erfindung des R 62 (1974) 12 copies
Toverkrijt (1989) 12 copies
De Japanse herfst : moderne Japanse verhalen (1989) — Author — 11 copies
Idéntico al ser humano (2010) 8 copies
Kastimees (2023) 5 copies
Kutu Adam (1993) 5 copies
The Laughing Moon (1975) 5 copies
Just Like Humans (1967) 5 copies
Encuentros secretos (2013) 5 copies
Kanguru Defteri (2017) 4 copies
Baskasinin Yüzü (2018) 4 copies
Tre metamorfosi: racconti (1996) 3 copies
League of the Hungry (2006) 2 copies
Four Stories (1973) 2 copies
跳蚤奔月 1 copy
砂の女 1 copy
Virane Harita (2019) 1 copy
箱男 1 copy
The dream escape (1977) 1 copy
反劇的人間 (1979) 1 copy
Zena u pesku (2009) 1 copy
Stony Eyes (1960) 1 copy
L'arca Ciliegio (1997) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories (1997) — Contributor — 228 copies
The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories (1989) — Contributor — 162 copies
The Road to Science Fiction #6: Around The World (1998) — Contributor — 47 copies
One World of Literature (1992) — Contributor — 24 copies
New Writing in Japan (1972) — Contributor — 22 copies
Murder in Japan: Japanese Stories of Crime and Detection (1987) — Contributor — 19 copies
S-Fマガジン 1966年11月号 (通巻88号) (1966) — Contributor — 1 copy


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Common Knowledge



The Box Man by Kobo Abe in Author Theme Reads (May 2015)
Secret Rendezvous by Kobo Abe in Author Theme Reads (May 2013)
The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abé in Author Theme Reads (May 2012)
The Face of Another by Kobo Abe in Author Theme Reads (April 2012)


Niki Jumpei, an amateur entomologist, seeks a rare beetle in the desert. The day ends, and he is lost in the sand dunes. In desperation, he agrees to assistance from another man who finds the entomologist shelter for the night. He is taken to a sand cliff from which he is lowered by rope ladder to a small house, partially covered by sand and inhabited by a lone woman. In the morning, the rope is gone but the woman remains.

The story was terrifying and engrossing all at once. It had the essence of one person being alone, yet not being alone; disappearing and yet not disappearing. Thinking of a person placed in a captive situation, it made me question whether it would be better to remain aloof or to befriend a captor. Presenting just as many questions as answers, this book turned out to be an incredible mind trip. I kept on trying to figure out what it all meant, whether it was a metaphor for anything at all or just a bizarre tale meant for entertainment. It was a story, complete with perfectly situated pen-and-ink drawings, about the meaning of being held captive and containing sequences of events and scenery which made for surreal and fascinating reading.… (more)
SqueakyChu | 64 other reviews | Dec 8, 2023 |
Collapsed [...] like a marionette whose strings had been cut,

Abe is doing a couple interesting things here:
-Some play in the Mask Face relationship. Mask as a kind of face; face subordinated (in the animistic sense) to the mask; mask as the real self (simulacrum) and the self which is already a kind of mask.
-An attempt at technical detail that is almost believable (though reads as juvenilia compared to later accomplishments in The Box Man).
-Wearing a mask so he can date his wife, condemning her for dating him (scarred face), condemning her for dating him (mask face), condemning her for lack of prurience, condemning her for imagined prurience. condemning her for not seeing through the mask, but utterly destroyed when he realizes that she has seen through it/leaves him.

After a long time, I picked up this book, blindly, and thought, "this guy sounds like Kōbō Abe when he writes about women," so at least it can be said he has a style.
… (more)
Joe.Olipo | 14 other reviews | Sep 19, 2023 |
Non è la sabbia che scorre, ma forse lo stesso scorrere è la sabbia. Non riesco a spiegarmi bene.


La respirazione, il camminare, la peristalsi dei visceri, i programmi quotidiani di ricerca, le domeniche ogni sette giorni, gli esami di fine stagione ogni quattro mesi, non solo non arrivano a darci la pace, ma ci incitano nuovamente al tran tran della vita. Di giorno in giorno, poi, si aumenta la quantità del fumo, e, dopo i sogni in cui si cerca affannosamente, con una donna dalle unghie sporche, un posto tranquillo e nascosto agli occhi dei curiosi, infine ci si accorge di essere intossicati, e poi, ricordandosi a un tratto del firmamento sostenuto dai cicli dei movimenti ellittici estremamente monotoni, e delle dune comandate dalla lunghezza d'onda di 1/8 di mm, improvvisamente ci si rende conto della situazione reale.


E resto sempre perplesso dal fatto che Sisifo ritrovi sempre il masso ad aspettarlo...
… (more)
NewLibrary78 | 64 other reviews | Jul 22, 2023 |
An existentialist Japanese novel about a man getting stuck in a village, buried by sand.

Extremely atmospheric, with the sand almost being its own character. The level of detail it is written really allows for the reader to get absorbed into the oppressive atmosphere of the sand. You can almost feel the sand stuck to your sweaty body, or taste it in your mouth. The level of detail really added a layer of realism to the story that otherwise read like some sort of hazy fever dream.

My only gripe is the main character felt like an incel at times, and some parts felt a bit "rapey" and over sexualized. Generally I don't mind unlikable characters, so it wasn't a huge deal for me, but was just a bit uncomfortable at times.… (more)
Andjhostet | 64 other reviews | Jul 4, 2023 |



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