Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Face of Another by Kobe Abe (2003, in translation, 256 pages)

Most people into the Japanese novel just read Kobe Abe's (1924 to 1993) towering classic, Woman of the Dunes, and never read anymore of his work. Woman of the Dunes is for sure must reading for anyone into the post WWII Japanese novels.  I would say most list makers would put it in the top ten Japanese novels. Kenzaburo Oe said Abe should have been given a Nobel Prize instead of him.

I am way behind in my posts on the works I have recently read so I will keep my remarks on this work brief.

  The Face of Another is an incredibly intelligent account of the nature of the mask we construct for ourselves, how we hide and try to create illusions to shield us.  In readings for Irish Short Story Week I came upon Oscar Wilde's famous saying that if you give a man a mask to wear he will tell you the truth.  If Wilde knows something about masks, and he knows a lot, then Abe immeasurably more.  Abe went to medical school and that training shows in this novel.  It is also a meditation about how WWII impacted the narrator.  There is an amazing scene set in a mental hospital for Japanese WWII veterans where a woman scarred terribly at Hiroshima volunteers to do laundry once a week.  In broader terms, the novel is a serious pondering of the human condition.  It is a deeply intellectual novel.  

This is my third Abe Novel.  There are eight of them in translation as kindle editions and I hope to read them all.  My next Abe novel will be The Boxman, about a man who walks all over Tokyo with a box on his head.  

Mel u


Mel u said...

wordsandpeace-thanks for your comment-this is a very good book, my third of his works.

Kinna said...

i love Kobo Abe's work for always making me think. Helps also that I love a number of his books. Thanks for the review