Getting to Know Kobo Abe
Kobo Abe (1924-1993) is remembered as one of the great Japanese writers of the 20th century.
Abe published 15 novels, all of which were bestsellers in Japan. Long considered Japan’s foremost living novelist, his death in 1993 inspired people to rediscover his other works as well, among them poems, short stories, essays, and plays.
His dedication to the absurd, his sense of humour and his nightmarish plots have seen him compared to Camus, Ionseco, Beckett, and Moravia. Indeed, his work has often been described with that favorite of all literary adjectives, “Kafkaesque.”
But Abe was a unique talent, versatile and visionary. Fortunately, enough of his work has been translated into English that we can get a strong sense of his powers.
Here’s a reading list to get you started, with eight novels (in order of their original publication), a collection of essays, and a collection of plays.
Image: a scene from the Abe play Slave Hunting, originally published in the July 6, 1955 issue of the magazine Asahi Graph
Kobo Abe is a writer worth talking about, but isn't talked about enough. Once you've gotten acquainted with Abe and his work, please join the discussion. Let us know your thoughts, and share any tips you have for new Abe readers. Thanks.