Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, a private investigator. A heavy smoker and drinker, and an observant and cynical man as befits his profession, this nameless character combines an obsessive attention to detail with a curious passivity. He worries about justifying his expense reports yet does little to prevent two deaths. Separated from his own wife, he is increasingly fascinated by his client, Nemuro Haru; he refers continually to the lemon-yellow curtains in her home. He is also an imaginative man, proud of the investigative technique he has thought up, that of mentally re-creating a subject. Eventually, he loses his own identity and seems to become the man whom he is seeking.

Nemuro Haru

Nemuro Haru, the wife of the missing man. Short, slender, and with a husky voice and a freckled face, she drinks beer often and seems to live in an alcoholic daze, often talking to herself. She initiates the search for her husband.

Nemuro Hiroshi’s brother

Nemuro Hiroshi’s brother, also nameless. He is a mysterious character who appears to be involved in homosexual prostitution, blackmail, protection rackets, and other shady projects. He carries a blue and silver badge, apparently a gang insignia. He is insistent about the search for his brother and trails the private detective around until he himself is killed. The detective questions the true relationship of this character to the wife throughout the...

(The entire section is 506 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

As is the case with many first-person novels, the only “real” character in the book is the narrator: Everything or everyone else is filtered through the narrator and is thus made a part of his own particular modes of perception and interpretation. The reflexivity of the novel is further complicated by the narrator’s own sense of identity, and his merging with the dead or lost Nemuro Hiroshi. With the exception of one sequence, the reader learns very little about the past life or present circumstances of the narrator. He lives alone (he is recently separated from his wife) in a nondescript apartment, and his life is his work. He seems to have no memory or no past. In one scene, the narrator visits his wife at her dressmaker’s shop in order to convince her not to divorce him, but even here, in what might be termed one of the most intimate scenes of the novel, the reader learns little of what the narrator’s marriage has been like. Instead, externals are presented: details about the appearance of his wife’s assistant, the clothes his wife is wearing, the kinds of clothing she makes. In short, the narrated world of The Ruined Map is almost wholly externalized, so that the usual attributes of character—emotions, reactions, habitual modes of speech or thought, memories, articulation or enactment of desire—are almost totally lacking. Even the infrequent dialogues between characters seem like tape-recorded transcriptions of what was said rather than...

(The entire section is 488 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Kimball, Arthur G. Crisis in Identity and Contemporary Japanese Novels, 1973.

Montgomery, Scott C. “Reading Japan Through Its Writers: Abe Kb and Oe Kenzaburo, the Problem of Selfhood in Contemporary Japan,” in Book Forum. VII (1984), pp. 30-31.

Rimer, J. Thomas. Modern Japanese Fiction and Its Traditions, 1978.

Williams, Phillip. “Absurdity and Kb Abe’s Art,” in Journal of the English Institute. III/IV (1972), pp. 129-143.

Yamamoto, Fumiko. “Metamorphosis in Abe Kb’s Work,” in Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese. XV (1980), pp. 170-194.