Reader's Encyclopedia

Abe Kõbõ (1924-)

Japanese novelist and playwright. A Tokyo resident for most of his adult life -- and better known in his own country for his successful plays than his fiction -- Abe is concerned with such problems of modern urban life as alienation, loneliness, and loss of individual identity. His novels and plays are characterized by avant - garde techniques and scientific nomenclature. Among his representative works are Suna no onna (1962; translated as The Woman in the Dunes, 1964), Tanin no kao (1964; translated as The Face of Another, 1966), and Moetsukita chizu (1967; translated as The Ruined Map, 1969). Having studied medicine as a youth, he also wrote works of science fiction like Dai yon kanpyoki (1959; translated as Inter Ice Age Four, 1970).

More recently, Abe Kõbõ has written Hakootoko (1973; translated as The Box Man, 1975), a story about a man who attempts to avoid anxieties and become nobody by placing a cardboard box over himself. The cardboard box is a symbol for both the ills and the evils of society, as well as a traditional symbol for the masks employed by Japanese actors. This was followed by Mikkar (1978; translated as Secret Rendezvous, 1979), a thriller with both mythological and psychological motifs interwoven into its main plot. He remains the most eloquent voice in Japanese literature on the theme of alienation as a condition of modern society.

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