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Abe Kobo: A Typical Japanese Modernist Writer

  Mr. S. Kalmar woke up in the morning feeling a little strange. After some experience and thinking, it was found that the discomfort was caused by the loss of the name. He went to work in the company as usual, but the human figure in his business card took his place, and he was kicked out of the company. Depressed and suffocated, he came to the hospital for treatment. Unexpectedly, the strong negative pressure generated by the emptiness in the chest inhaled the desert scenery on the hospital pictorial into the body. S. Kalmar was charged and tried, but could not be sentenced because he did not have a name, and was finally sent to the end of the world—a hut in an endless desert. He stared at the wall for a long time, and the wall disappeared without knowing where to go. And the desert landscape in his body is constantly expanding, and as a result, he has become a high wall.
  ——This is the basic plot of the novel “Wall” published by Kobo Abe in 1951. The novel has made a sensation in the Japanese literary world with its bizarre plot and some kind of cryptic thought, and it also makes readers feel refreshed. The novel won the “Akutagawa Award” in the first half of that year. But Koji Uno, one of the judges of the “Akutagawa Award” at the time, believed that it was an “incomprehensible novel” and accused it of “almost no or no realism”. However, those who appreciated the novel had an absolute advantage. Funabashi Seiichi commented: “This is an abstract art with a negative positivism as a composition. . . The author’s free and healthy critical spirit is on the paper, and at this point, it implies the emergence of a typical new novel.” This novel attracted widespread attention, and Abe Kobo became a well-known modernist writer.
  Anbe Gongfang, born in Tokyo in 1924, came to China with his parents the following year and grew up in Shenyang. At the age of 16, he returned to Japan to study, and in 1943 he studied at the Imperial College of Medicine in Tokyo. In 1944, anticipating the outcome of the defeat, he forged medical records and went back to Shenyang. Deported back after the war, he experienced firsthand the turmoil and chaos in Japan after the defeat, and he also had a very difficult time selling pickles and briquettes for a living. Living in a foreign country for a long time and the ups and downs in the early stage of defeat have formed a desert-like sense of desolation and loneliness in his mind. He loves literature, was a fan of Dostoevsky in his student days, and read a lot of works by Nietzsche, Heidegger and Jaspers. Under very difficult conditions after the war, he printed at his own expense “Anthology of Anonymous Poems” (1947), a collection of poems depicting life in China and the anguish after the defeat. But the turning point of his literary career came in 1948, when two things determined his future direction. The first is to participate in the “Night Party”, a modernist literary group. He was especially influenced by the avant-garde critic Hanada Seiki, and paid special attention to surrealism, which made his creations branded with surrealism. Second, he published his maiden work “End Road Sign” that year, expressing the basic theme of his entire creation: exploring the state of human existence and freedom. From this year, he gave up medicine to pursue literature and embarked on the road of professional creation.
  The Last Sign is an existentialist novel. It describes that the protagonist flees due to the distress of lovelorn and despair of life, and leaves the motherland to find a world of freedom. He wandered around, was imprisoned by bandits outside Shanhaiguan, China, and became seriously ill. In critical condition, he wrote three memoirs, the first one narrates the experience of being imprisoned, the second one traces the love and running away in his hometown, and the third one records the experiences of the other two people heard in the cell. In the end, it describes the bandit’s infighting and fleeing, and the bandit’s nest becomes a ruin. At this time, he dragged his sick body and looked at the rubble in front of him. In dying, he felt freedom without restraint and oppression, and found his own kingdom: “This time I can completely occupy myself, and there will be no one else. Come and rob me.” The novel adopts the diary genre commonly used in existentialism, with an obscure and dark style, expressing the author’s feelings and spiritual shadows about the post-war social reality. The novel begins with the philosophical question of “Why is it necessary to be so?”, and ends with “Now I am truly my king”. The exploration of individual freedom is the central theme of the novel, which is the existential view of freedom. After reading the novel, Yutaka Yoko, a famous writer at the time, said, “I dealt with what can be called a sense of existence face-to-face, and I felt that a writer I was looking forward to appeared appeared.”
  Abe Public House did not live up to the expectations of its predecessors. After his debut, he worked diligently, publishing a series of works: “The Hunger Allies” (1954), “The Beasts Go Home” (1957), “The Left Eye” (1960), “The Desert Girl” (1962), “The Face of Others” (1964), “The Martian” (1966), “The Man in the Box” (1973), “The Secret Order” (1977), “The Ark Sakura Maru” (1984) and so on. Although these works show the changes of the author’s style in different periods and the exploration and pursuit of art, they generally express the ideological content of existentialism by means of surrealism and expressionism. Anbe Gongfang connects the individual freedom explored in “The End Road Sign” with social reality, not only writing about personal inner feelings, but also depicting the external environment, which strongly expresses dissatisfaction with reality. His brush and ink focus on the basic themes of existential literature, such as loss of self, alienation of human nature, and loneliness. The characters in the works are often deformed. In “Magic Chalk”, the painter becomes a mural, and in “The Life of a Poet”, the female weaver is pulled into wool and woven into a sweater. Even if the characters are not deformed, they have suffered major accidental changes or heavy blows. For example, in “The Intruder”, a group of strangers broke into the protagonist’s house late at night, and the protagonist suffered all kinds of coercion; “The Face of Others” describes the various strange things that happened after the director of a polymer research institute was destroyed by the explosion of liquid gas. The environment in which the characters are located is always closed, oppressive, and dark. The short story “Red Cocoon”, which won Japan’s second post-war literature award, describes a homeless homeless man who is unable to find a place to live in a city full of houses and crisscrossed streets. In the end, he is exhausted and decomposed into countless numbers. The fiber wraps itself around, and this red cocoon becomes “my home without any interference”, which is the living environment of human beings. Prisons, walls, and deserts are the scenes that often appear in Abe’s works, which can best symbolize the environment in which people live in reality.
  ”Wall” is the famous work of Abe Kobo. Through the descriptions of the protagonist losing his name, his business card turning into a human form, inhaling external objects, and turning into a high wall in the desert, it appears bizarre and absurd from a traditional perspective. But it truly expresses the reality that in the absurd real world, the low-ranking people are bullied and teased, and people’s “free will” and “self-nature” are completely lost. A series of symbolic allegorical images are used in the novel: “name” is a symbol of “self”, and the loss of name implies the loss of self; “business card” is a metaphor for the alienation of life, which is originally set to express the identity of the character. But in reality, the fact that you only look at the business card and not the person exists in large numbers. In reality, it overwhelms and excludes the person itself; finally S. Kalma turns into a high wall in the boundless desert, and this image gives people a desolate and lonely image. feeling, becomes a tragic symbol of futile resistance. Because the work contains profound thoughts in the grotesque plot, especially in harmony with the general social psychology in Japan shortly after the defeat of the war, it is welcomed by readers and appreciated by critics.
  The Desert Girl, created in the early 1960s, is Abe’s most famous work. The novel describes that Renmu Shunping went to the seaside desert to collect insect specimens, and was taken to a widow’s house in a sand cave by a desert tribe that was little known to the world. At first he pretended to be obedient and secretly waited for an opportunity to escape. However, the flow of time washed away his desire to escape, and he slowly adapted to the desert life, abandoned the idea of ​​leaving the desert, and stayed to start a new life. Seven years later, according to relevant regulations, the society officially announced the disappearance of Niki Junpei. In this unreal story, the author vividly explores a philosophy of life: the living environment of human beings is absurd and ugly, “the desert is like our society”, there is oppression, bullying, punishment, no freedom and happiness, Only lonely. But how to face this reality? Where is the foundation of survival? The answer of the novel is: look for life in the reality in front of you, don’t escape from reality and turn to fantasy. Combined with the social conditions of Japan’s rapid economic recovery after the war, it is not necessary to turn from the noisy and chaotic cities to the rural natural environment, but to bravely go to life and go to the “desert” of the city. The subtitle of the novel “No punishment, no escape”, philosophically explained the relationship between the absurdity of human existence and hard work, which is also the main theme of the novel. The novel won the 14th Yomiuri Literature Award in Japan, and was soon translated into English, French, Russian and other languages, and was welcomed by readers from all over the world. The author’s adaptation of the novel into a film won the special prize at the Cannes International Film Festival in 1964, and the novel won the Best Foreign Literature Award in France in 1968.
  Japanese literature after the war has made a breakthrough in the aesthetic ideal of Japanese traditional literature. And Abe, who entered the literary world after the war, was farther from tradition than his comrades. His literary nutrition mainly comes from Western modern literature. His creations take existentialism as the soul and are dressed in expressionist clothing. Therefore, Abe’s reputation abroad, especially in Europe, is higher than in Japan, and he has been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature many times. In 1977 he was recommended as an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is one of the few world-renowned Japanese writers, and a true “modernist” writer.

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