Kōbō Abe

Kōbō Abe

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Kōbō Abe, pseudonym of Kimifusa Abe, was a Japanese writer, playwright, photographer and inventor.


He was the son of a doctor and studied medicine at Tokyo University. He never practised however, giving it up to join a literary group that aimed to apply surrealist techniques to Marxist ideology.


Abe has been often compared to Franz Kafka and Alberto Moravia for his surreal, often nightmarish explorations of individuals in contemporary society and his modernist sensibilities.


He was first published as a poet in 1947 with Mumei shishu ("Poems of an unknown poet") 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. 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.


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. In 1973, he founded an acting studio in Tokyo, where he trained performers and directed plays. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1977.