Kōbō Abe

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Kōbō Abe
安部 公房
Kōbō Abe novelist.jpg
Born Abe Kimifusa (安部 公房)
(1924-03-07)March 7, 1924[1]
Kita, Tokyo, Japan
Died

January 22, 1993(1993-01-22) (aged 68)
Tokyo, Japan

Cause of death acute heart failure
Occupation Writer

Kōbō Abe (安部 公房 Abe Kōbō?), pseudonym of Kimifusa Abe (安部 公房 Abe Kimifusa?, March 7, 1924[1][2] – January 22, 1993), was a Japanese writer, playwright, photographer and inventor. Abe has been often compared to Franz Kafka and Alberto Moravia for his modernist sensibilities and his surreal, often nightmarish explorations of individuals in contemporary society.[3][4]

Biography[edit]

Abe was born in Kita, Tokyo, Japan and grew up in Mukden (now Shenyang) in Manchuria.[1] Abe's family was in Tokyo at the time due to his father's year of medical research in Tokyo.[5] His mother had been raised in Hokkaido, while he experienced childhood in Manchuria. This triplicate assignment of origin was influential to Abe, who told Nancy Shields in a 1978 interview, "I am essentially a man without a hometown. This may be what lies behind the 'hometown phobia' that runs in the depth of my feelings. All things that are valued for their stability offend me."[5] As a child, Abe was interested in insect-collecting, mathematics, and reading. His favorite authors were Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Franz Kafka, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Edgar Allan Poe.[1]

Abe prepares gyōza

Abe returned to Japan briefly in April 1940 to study at Seijo High School, but a lung condition forced his return to Mukden, where he read Jaspers, Heidegger, Dostoyevsky, and Edmund Husserl. Abe began his studies at Tokyo Imperial University in 1943 to study medicine, partially out of respect for his father, but also because "[t]hose students who specialized in medicine were exempted from becoming soldiers. My friends who chose the humanities were killed in the war."[5] He returned to Manchuria around the end of World War II.[1] Specifically, Abe left the Tokyo University Medical School in October 1944, returning to his father's clinic in Mukden.[5] That winter, his father died of eruptive typhus. Returning to Tokyo with his father's ashes, Abe reentered the medical school. Abe started writing novellas and short stories during his last year in university. He graduated in 1948 with a medical degree, joking once that he was allowed to graduate only on the condition that he would not practice.[5]

Abe had married in 1945 to Machi Yamada, an art student who led a career as artist and stage director, and the couple saw successes within their fields in similar time frames.[5] Initially, however, they had lived in an old barracks within a bombed-out area of the city center. Abe sold pickles and charcoal on the street to pay their bills. The couple joined a number of artistic study groups, such as Yoru no Kai (Group of the Night or The Night Society) and Nihon Bungaku Gakko (Japanese Literary School)'.

As the post-war period progressed, Abe's stance as an intellectual pacifist led to him joining the Japanese Communist Party, with whom he worked to organize laborers in poor parts of Tokyo. Soon after his reception of the Akutagawa Prize in 1951, Abe began to feel the constraints of the Communist Party's rules and regulations alongside doubts about what meaningful artistic works could be created under the title of "socialist realism."[5] By 1956, Abe began writing in solidarity with the Polish rebels and their freedom movement, drawing the ire of the Japanese Communist Party. The Party's criticism reaffirmed his stance: "The Communist Party put pressure on me to change the content of the article and apologize. But I refused. I said I would never change my opinion on the matter. This was my first break with the Party."[5] The next year, Abe traveled to Eastern Europe for the Twentieth Convention of the Soviet Communist Party. Here, confronted by the realities of communist society, Abe saw little of interest, but the arts gave him some solace. He visited Kafka's house in Prague, read Rilke and Čapek, reflected on his idol Lu Xun, and was moved by a Mayakovsky play in Brno.[5]

The invasion of Hungary by the Soviet Union in 1956 disgusted Abe, who attempted to split from the Communist Party. At the time, however, resignations from the party were not accepted. Four years later, in 1962, he was forcibly expelled from the party. His political activity came to an end in 1967 in the form of a statement published by himself, his wife, Yasunari Kawabata, and Kenzaburō Ōe protesting the treatment of writers, artists, and intellectuals in Communist China.[5]

His experiences in Manchuria were also deeply influential on his writing, imprinting terrors and fever dreams which are now surrealist hallmarks of his works. In his recollections of Mukden, these markers are evident: "The fact is, it may not have been trash in the center of the marsh at all; it may have been crows. I do have a memory of thousands of crows flying up from the swamp at dusk, as if the surface of the swamp were being lifted up into the air."[5] The trash of the marsh was a truth of life, as were the crows, yet Abe's recollections of them tie them distinctly. Further experiences with the swamp centered around its use as a staking ground for condemned criminals with "[their] heads--now food for crows-- appearing suddenly out of the darkness and disappearing again, terrified and attracted to us." These ideas are present in much of Abe's work.

Career[edit]

He was first published as a poet in 1947 with Mumei-shishū ("Poems of an unknown poet"), which he paid for himself,[1] and as a novelist the following year with, Owarishi michi no shirube ni ("The Road Sign at the End of the Street"), which established his reputation.[1] When Abe received the Akutagawa Prize in 1951, his ability to continue publishing was confirmed.[5] Though he did much work as an avant-garde novelist and playwright, it was not until the publication of The Woman in the Dunes in 1962 that he won widespread international acclaim.[citation needed]

In the 1960s, he collaborated with Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara in the film adaptations of The Pitfall, Woman in the Dunes, The Face of Another, and The Ruined Map. Woman in the Dunes received widespread critical acclaim and was released only four months after he was expelled from the Japanese Communist Party.

In 1971, he founded an acting studio in Tokyo, known as the Abe Studio.[5] Until the end of the decade, he trained performers and directed plays. The decision to found the studio came two years after his first foray into directing his own work, which occurred in 1969 for a production of The Man Who Turned Into A Stick. This production had sets designed by Abe's wife, and starred Hisashi Igawa. Abe had become dissatisfied with ability of the theatre to materialize the abstract, reducing it to a passive medium. Until 1979, Abe wrote, directed, and produced fourteen plays with the Abe Studio. In addition, he published two novels, Box Man (1973) and Secret Rendezvous (1968), alongside a series of essays, musical scores, and photographic exhibits.[5] The Seibu Theater, an avant-garde theater in the new department store Parco, was allegedly established in 1973 specifically for Abe, although many other artists were given the chance to use the cultural "safe zone." The Abe Studio production of The Glasses of Love Are Rose Colored (1973) opened there. Later, the entirety of the Seibu Museum was used to present one of Abe's photographic works, An Exhibition of Images: I.[5]

The Abe Studio provided a foil for much of the contemporary scene in Japanese theater, contrasting the Haiyuza's conventional productions, opting to focus on dramatic, as opposed to physical, expression. Furthermore, it was a safe space for young performers, whom Abe would often recruit from the Toho Gakuen College in Chofu City, on the outskirts of Tokyo, where he taught. The average age of the performers in the studio was about 27 throughout the decade, as members left and fresh faces were brought in. Potential issues arising from difference in stage experience were handled "deftly" by Abe.[5]

He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1977.[6]

"'I simply want to leave within people a legend,' Enomoto says, 'In the hearts of each of them... I want to plant the seeds of dreams.'" [5]

Awards[edit]

Among the honors bestowed upon him were the Akutagawa Prize in 1951 for The Crime of S. Karuma, the Yomiuri Prize in 1962 for The Woman in the Dunes, and the Tanizaki Prize in 1967 for the play Friends. Kenzaburō Ōe stated that Abe deserved the Nobel Prize in Literature[citation needed], which he himself had won. Abe was mentioned multiple times as a possible recipient, but his early death precluded that possibility.[5]

Bibliography[edit]

Novels[edit]

Year Japanese Title English Title Translations available Notes
1948 終りし道の標に
Owarishi michi no shirube ni
At the Guidepost at the End of the Road
1954 飢餓同盟
Kiga doumei
Starving Unions
1957 けものたちは故郷をめざす
Kemono tachi wa kokyou wo mezasu
Animals Are Going To Their Home
1959 第四間氷期
Dai yon kan pyouki
Inter Ice Age 4 E. Dale Saunders [1]
1960 石の眼
Ishi no me
Stony Eyes
1962 砂の女
Suna no onna
The Woman in the Dunes E. Dale Saunders Adapted into an international film[1]
1964 他人の顔
Tanin no kao
The Face of Another E. Dale Saunders [1]
1964 榎本武揚
Enomoto Takeaki
Takeaki Enomoto Commissioned conversion to a play by theatrical company Kumo and directed by Hiroshi Akutagawa

Mixed reviews: Keene preferred the novel to the play, while Oe considered it "genuinely new." [5]

1966 人間そっくり
Ningen sokkuri
The Double of Human Being
1967 燃えつきた地図
Moetsukita chizu
The Ruined Map E. Dale Saunders [1]
1973 箱男
Hako otoko
The Box Man E. Dale Saunders [1]
1977 密会
Mikkai
Secret Rendezvous Juliet Winters Carpenter [1]
1984 方舟さくら丸
Hakobune sakura maru
The Ark Sakura Juliet Winters Carpenter [1]
1991 カンガルー・ノート
Kangaruu noto
Kangaroo Notebook Maryellen Toman Mori
1994 飛ぶ男
Tobu otoko
The Flying Man Incomplete

Collected short stories[edit]

Year Japanese Title English Title Translations available Notes
1949 唖むすめ
Oshimusume
The Deaf Girl Andrew Horvat Collected in Four Stories by Kobo Abe
1949 デンドロカカリヤ
Dendorokakariya
Dendrocacalia Juliet Winters Carpenter Collected in Beyond the Curve
1949 夢の逃亡
Yume no toubou
The Dream Escape
1950 赤い繭
Akai mayu
The Red Cocoon Lane Dunlop Collected in A Late chrysanthemum: Twenty-One Stories from the Japanese
1950 洪水
Kouzui
The Flood Lane Dunlop Collected in A Late chrysanthemum: Twenty-One Stories from the Japanese
1951 魔法のチョーク
Mahou no chouku
The Magic Chalk Alison Kibrick Collected in The Showa Anthology: Modern Japanese Short Stories
1951 壁―S・カルマ氏の犯罪
Kabe―S・Karuma shi no hanzai
The Wall ― The Crime of S. Karma Juliet Winters Carpenter Excerpt collected in Beyond the Curve
1951 闖入者
Chinnyusha
Intruders Juliet Winters Carpenter Collected in Beyond the Curve
1951 詩人の生涯
Shijin no Shougai
The Life of a Poet Juliet Winters Carpenter Collected in Beyond the Curve
1951 飢えた皮膚
Ueta hihu
The Starving Skin
1952 ノアの方舟
Noa no hakobune
Noah's Ark Juliet Winters Carpenter Collected in Beyond the Curve
1952 水中都市
Suichu toshi
The underwater city
1954
Inu
The Dog Andrew Horvat Collected in Four Stories by Kobo Abe
1954 変形の記録
Henkei no kiroku
Record of a Transformation Juliet Winters Carpenter Collected in Beyond the Curve
1950
Bou
The Stick Lane Dunlop Collected in A Late chrysanthemum: Twenty-One Stories from the Japanese
1956 R62号の発明
R62 gou no hatumei
Inventions by No. R62
1957 誘惑者
Yuwakusha
Beguiled Juliet Winters Carpenter Collected in Beyond the Curve
1957 夢の兵士
Yume no heishi
The Dream Soldier First translation, 1973 by Andrew Horvat
Second translation, 1991 by Juliet Winters Carpenter
First translation collected in Four Stories by Kobo Abe
Second translation collected in Beyond the Curve
1957 鉛の卵
Namari no tamago
The Egg of Pb
1958 使者
Shisha
The Special Envoy Juliet Winters Carpenter Collected in Beyond the Curve
1960 賭け
Kake
The Bet Juliet Winters Carpenter Collected in Beyond the Curve
1961 無関係な死
Mukankei na shi
An Irrelevant Death Juliet Winters Carpenter Collected in Beyond the Curve
1966 カーブの向う
Kabu no mukou
Beyond the Curve Juliet Winters Carpenter First collection published in English[1]
1964 時の崖
Toki no gake
The Cliff of Time Andrew Horvat Collected in Four Stories by Kobo Abe

Plays[edit]

Year Japanese Title English Title Translations available Notes
時間の崖
Jikan no gake
The Cliff of Time Donald Keene Collected in The Man Who Turned Into A Stick: Three Related Plays
スーツケース
Sūtsukēsu
Suitcase Donald Keene Collected in The Man Who Turned Into A Stick: Three Related Plays
1955 制服
Seifuku
Uniforms
1955 どれい狩り
Dorei gari
Slave Hunting
1955 快速船
Kaisoku sen
The Speedy Ship
1957[7] 棒になった男
Bou ni natta otoko
The Man Who Turned Into A Stick Donald Keene Collected in The Man Who Turned Into A Stick: Three Related Plays

The 1969 production was the first time Abe directed his own work. His wife designed the set.[5]

1958 幽霊はここにいる
Yuurei wa koko ni iru
The Ghost Is Here Donald Keene Collected in Three Plays by Kōbō Abe

Award winning production by Koreya Senda Well received in East Germany[5]

1965 おまえにも罪がある
Omae nimo tsumi ga aru
You, Too, Are Guilty Ted T. Takaya Collected in Modern Japanese Drama: An Anthology
1967 友達
Tomodachi
Friends Donald Keene Performed in English in Honolulu[1]
Akutagawa Award winner 1967

Adapted into a film in 1988, directed by Masahito Naruse[5]

1967 榎本武揚
Enomoto Takeaki
Takeaki Enomoto Alt. translation: Enomoto Buyo [5]

Directed by the son of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, "father of the Japanese short story" [5]

1971 未必の故意
Mihitsu no koi
Involuntary Homicide Donald Keene Collected in Three Plays by Kōbō Abe
1971 ガイド・ブック
Gaido bukku
Guide Book
1973 愛の眼鏡は色ガラス
Ai no megane wa iro garasu
Loving Glasses Are Colored Ones
1974 緑色のストッキング
Midori iro no sutokkingu
Green Stockings Donald Keene Collected in Three Plays by Kōbō Abe
1975 ウエー(新どれい狩り)
Uē (Shin dorei gari)
Ue (Slave Hunting, New Version), The Animal Hunter James R. Brandon
1976 案内人GUIDE BOOK II
Annai nin
The Guide Man, GUIDE BOOK II
1977 水中都市GUIDE BOOK III
Suichu toshi
The Underwater City, GUIDE BOOK III
1978 S・カルマ氏の犯罪
S・Karuma shi no hanzai
The Crime of S. Karuma
1979 仔象は死んだ
Kozou wa shinda
An Elephant Calf Is Dead

Essays[edit]

Year Japanese Title English Title Translations available Notes
1944 詩と詩人 (意識と無意識)
Shi to shijin [Ishiki to muishiki]
Poetry and Poets (Consciousness and the Unconscious) Richard F. Calichman Collected in The Frontier Within: Essays by Abe Kōbō
1954 文学における理論と実践
Bungaku ni okeru riron to jissen
Theory and Practice in Literature Richard F. Calichman Collected in The Frontier Within: Essays by Abe Kōbō
1955 猛獣の心に計算機の手を:文学とは何か
Mōjū no kokoro ni keisanki no te wo: Bungaku to ha nanika
The Hand of a Calculator with the Heart of a Beast: What Is Literature? Richard F. Calichman Collected in The Frontier Within: Essays by Abe Kōbō
1957 アメリカ発見
Amerika hakken
Discovering America Richard F. Calichman Collected in The Frontier Within: Essays by Abe Kōbō
1960 映像は言語の壁を破壊するか
Eizō ha gengo no kabe wo hakai suru ka
Does the Visual Image Destroy the Walls of Language? Richard F. Calichman Collected in The Frontier Within: Essays by Abe Kōbō
1960 芸術の革命:芸術運動の理論
Geijutsu no kakumei: Geijutsu undō no riron
Artistic Revolution: Theory of the Art Movement Richard F. Calichman Collected in The Frontier Within: Essays by Abe Kōbō
1965 現代における教育の可能性:人間存在の本質に触れて
Gendai ni okeru kyōiku no kanōsei: Ningen sonzai no honshitsu ni furete
Possibilities for Education Today: On the Essence of Human Existence Richard F. Calichman Collected in The Frontier Within: Essays by Abe Kōbō
1966 隣人を超えるもの
Rinjin wo koeru mono
Beyond the Neighbor Richard F. Calichman Collected in The Frontier Within: Essays by Abe Kōbō
1968 ミリタリールック
Miritarī rukku
The Military Look Richard F. Calichman Collected in The Frontier Within: Essays by Abe Kōbō
1968 異端のパスポート
Itan no pasupōto
Passport of Heresy Richard F. Calichman Collected in The Frontier Within: Essays by Abe Kōbō
1968 内なる辺境
Uchi naru henkyō
The Frontier Within Richard F. Calichman Collected in The Frontier Within: Essays by Abe Kōbō
1969 続:内なる辺境
Zoku: Uchi naru henkyō
The Frontier Within, Part II Richard F. Calichman Collected in The Frontier Within: Essays by Abe Kōbō
1975 笑う月
Warau tsuki
The Laughing Moon

Poetry[edit]

Year Japanese Title English Title Translations available Notes
1947 無名詩集
Mumei shishu
Poems of an Unknown Poet
1978 人さらい
Hito sarai
Kidnap

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2010). "Abe Kobo". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. pp. 23–24. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8. 
  2. ^ "Abe, Kobo". Who Was Who in America, 1993–1996, vol. 11. New Providence, N.J.: Marquis Who's Who. 1996. p. 1. ISBN 0837902258. 
  3. ^ New York Times.
  4. ^ Timothy Iles, Abe Kobo: an Exploration of his Prose, Drama, and Theatre, EPAP, 2000.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Shields, Nancy (1996). Fake Fish: The Theater of Kobo Abe. Weatherhill: New York & Tokyo. ISBN 978-0834803541. 
  6. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved March 18, 2011. 
  7. ^ Hochman, Stanley (1984). McGraw-Hill encyclopedia of world drama: an international reference work in 5 vol, Volume 1. VNR AG. p. 2. ISBN 0-07-079169-4. 

External links[edit]