Kōbō Abe Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207665-Abe.jpg Kb Abe Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Kb Abe (ahb-eh) was one of Japan’s most prolific postwar writers; his novels, plays, and stories focus on the alienation of contemporary men and women. Born Kimifusa Abe in Tokyo, he lived until the age of sixteen in occupied Mukden, China, where his physician father worked and taught at the Japanese-run Manchurian School of Medicine. The Japanese colony in which his family lived grew with Japan’s expansive presence on the Asian continent in the 1920’s and 1930’s. War with China broke out in 1937, and Abe returned to Tokyo in 1941 to attend school and receive military training. His early interests included insect collecting and mathematics. Following in his father’s footsteps, Abe entered the medical school of Tokyo Imperial University in 1943, specializing in gynecology. He interrupted his studies, however, to return to Manchuria. Following his repatriation at the end of the war, he resumed his university courses. He and his wife, Machi, were married while Abe was a student. She became an artist and set designer, and her drawings illustrate many of her husband’s later literary works. They had a daughter named Neri.b{omacr}[Abe, Kobo]}b{omacr}[Abe, Kobo]}b{omacr}[Abe, Kobo]}

Abe was an indifferent student and not really interested in medicine; he was permitted to graduate after he promised not to practice. By this time, his father had died, and Abe may have felt released from pressures to become a doctor. A collection of his poems, Mumei shish (poems of an unknown poet), was privately printed in 1947. He received his medical degree in 1948, and his first piece of fiction, Owarishi michi no shirube ni, was published the same year in Kosei. In this story about a self-imposed exile in Manchuria, he explored themes that would continue to provide him with material: human identity and the experience of being separated from one’s homeland. “Kabe” (the wall) and “S. Karuma-shi no hanzai” (S. Karuma’s crime) together garnered the 1951 Akutagawa Prize; these and other early works—“Dendorokakariya” (1949; dendrocacalia), “Akai mayu” (1950; “The Red Cocoon”), Baberu no t no tanuki (a badger in the tower of Babel), and Mah no chku (the magic chalk)—explored existential concerns and show evidence of his appreciation of the works of Fyodor Dostoevski, Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, and Franz Kafka. Abe was frequently compared to Kafka because of his use of labyrinthine images and insectlike characteristics.

In his early writings, Abe developed a style rooted in realism yet tinged with surrealism and the irrational. His pieces in the period from 1950 to 1955 focused on nameless, often homeless ordinary humans in impersonal cities being transformed into other forms, a motif presaged in Kafka’s The...

(The entire section is 1148 words.)


(Drama for Students)

On March 7, 1924, while his father was conducting research in Tokyo, Japan, Kobo Abe was born. Abe’s father, Asakichi, a citizen of Japan...

(The entire section is 699 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Kobo Abe, one of Japan’s greatest writers, was born on March 7, 1924, in Tokyo. He followed in his father’s footsteps to a certain...

(The entire section is 448 words.)