Beyond the Curve Summary
by Kobo Abe

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Beyond the Curve

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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BEYOND THE CURVE is the first collection of Abe’s stories to appear in English. These twelve stories, written between 1949 and 1966, concern the fragile identity of protagonists who are confused strangers lost in the postwar landscape. Almost all of the stories are narrated in the first person, drawing the reader into the neurotic thoughts of protagonists trapped in claustrophobic situations. In “The Irrelevant Death,” a man returns to his apartment after work to find a murdered stranger lying on the floor. He decides that he cannot report the murder to the police because they will not believe that he is unconnected to the crime. So the nameless man slides into a Kafkaesque world of guilt and indecision as he creates more and more elaborate schemes to dispose of the body and transfer the responsibility for it to someone else.

In the title story, a nameless narrator on a mountain road forgets his identity and what lies beyond the next curve of the road. Afraid that going on will leave him in a wholly foreign world, he decides to go back the way he came. As the man gathers fragments of his life, he ends up in a situation at once intriguing because we lack so many of the pieces, and totally banal, since it resembles so many other lives. In “The Crime of S. Karma,” Abe writes of a man who wakes one morning with a hollow feeling in his chest and no memory of his name. As the story unfolds, he learns that his name has abandoned him, taking his identity with it, and has now stolen his job. The man can only wait in his apartment, hoping his name will return there so he can confront it.