Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Abé, Kobo

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(1924-1993) Japanese writer, some of whose later novels – notably Suna no Onna (1962; trans E Dale Saunders as Woman in the Dunes 1964 US) – are famous for their inspired absorption and transformation of Western renderings of alienation and the Absurd, including specifically the work of Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). The stories assembled as Beyond the Curve (coll trans Juliet Winters Carpenter 1991 US), first published 1949-1966, show how early and how intensely KA had translated these influences into an original idiom, marked by narrative urgency, urban bleakness and an occasionally convulsive wit. In "Dendorokakariya" (1949), trans here as "Dendrocacalia", the Transformation of an ordinary man into a plant reads simultaneously as a Twice-Told version of the myth of Daphne, a Posthumous Fantasy and an acidulous example of the comedy of the Absurd. The other tales in Beyond the Curve, though very various in content, share a similar driving wit. KA's novels in translation – including Moetsukita Chizu (1967; trans E Dale Saunders as The Ruined Map 1969 US), Tanin no Kao (1964; trans E Dale Saunders as The Face of Another 1966 US) and Hakobune Sakura Maru (1984; trans Juliet Winters Carpenter as The Ark Sakura 1988 US) – are less mobile in their handling of the metaphysics of solitudinous alienation. The Face of Another was filmed in 1966. Dai-Yon Kampyoki (1959; trans E Dale Saunders as Inter Ice Age 4 1970 US) is sf. KA's surreal, Kafkaesque, vaguely sf-ish fantastication Mikkai (1977; trans Juliet Winters Carpenter as Secret Rendezvous 1979 US) is set in a vast Edifice-like underground hospital so complex patients must hire agents to cope with its demands. [JC]

Kobo Abé


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.