Japanese Culture >> Kobo Abe
Kobo Abe, also known as Kimifusa Abe, was a Japanese writer
who was born in Kita, Tokyo in 1924. Abe grew up in Manchuria, where his father
had taught at a medical college. In 1941, Abe went back to Japan and began
studying at Tokyo Imperial Universtiy. In 1948, he graduated with a medical
degree but it is rumored that he was not allowed to practice.
In 1947, Abe published a set of poems and then released his first novel "The Road Sign at the End of the Street", which he had written in memory of his father and friends who had died in Manchuria. Through these works, his reputation grew as being a talented novelist who was more avant-garde than others of the time. In 1951, Abe won the Akutagawa Award, an important literary prize in Japan, for his novel "The Crime of Mr. S. Karuma".
What is less known is that Abe Kobo was also a member of the Communist Party. However, at the time, nearly all young Japanese writers were. Abe fought the party's leadership and then was later purged from the party in 1960. Two of his teachers both believed in anarchism as well, which may be the reason why Abe tried to take over the Communist party.
It wasn't until 1962, however, that Kobe Abe became internationally popular with his novel "The Woman in the Dunes". He started to work with director Hiroshi Teshigahara in adapting some films, including "The Woman in the Dunes".
Abe has often been compared to Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett because of his take on people in contemporary society. His works often had a surreal feel to them, which was also similar to Kafka's works. Abe became widely popular throughout the entire world after "The Woman in the Dunes" was released. Some common themes seen in Abe's novels are confused or lost identities, isolation and greed.
He also began training performers and started directing plays after he founded his own acting studio in 1973. He even created the music for the plays with his own synthesizer. The rest of his life was mostly dedicated to writing plays, but he did write a few more novels, including "Kangaroo Notebook", his final novel before he died in 1993 from a heart attack due to a brain hemorrhage. "Kangaroo Notebook" is also famous as it was it made Abe the first Japanese writer to use a word processor to write a novel.
The city of Tyohu even held an Abe exhibition in front of their city hall for decades. At the exhibition, visitors could see his works as a photographer, the floppy disk on which he wrote "Kangaroo Notebook", the notebooks in which he wrote his earlier novels and much more. Many writers from all around the world have been influenced by his surreal works. Abe was a true artist, as he was a writer, director, poet and photographer. His novels have stood the test of time and Abe is still considered to be one of Japan's best writers of all time.
About the Author
Michael Russell. Your Independent guide to Japan.