In the last novel written before his death in 1993, one of Japan's most distinguished novelists proffered a surreal vision of Japanese society that manages to be simultaneously fearful and jarringly funny. The narrator of Kangaroo Notebook wakes on morning to discover that his legs are growing radish sprouts, an ailment that repulses his doctor but provides the patient with the unusual ability to snack on himself. In short order, Kobo Abe's unraveling protagonist finds himself hurtling in a hospital bed to the very shores of hell. Abe has assembled a cast of oddities into a coherent novel, one imbued with unexpected meaning. Translated from the Japanese by Maryellen Toman Mori.
About the Author
Kobo Abe was born in Tokyo in 1924 and grew up in Mukden, Manchuria, during World War II. In 1948 he received a medical degree from Tokyo Imperial University, but he never practiced medicine. Considered one of Japan’s foremost novelists, his most famous works include The Face of Another (1964), The Box Man (1973), Secret Rendezvous (1977), and The Ark Sakura (1984). All of Abe’s books have been bestsellers in Japan and he was the recipient of numerous literary awards and prizes, including the Yomiuri Prize for The Woman in the Dunes in 1962. He collaborated with director Hiroshi Teshigahara on film adaptations of four of his novels—including The Woman in the Dunes—and was also widely known as a dramatist. He died in 1993.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Kangaroo Notebook based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Weird weird weird weird. But great. A totally confusing but refreshing read, in true magical realist style.
This novel was more strange than surreal, yet somehow readable. I think I would have to take a hallucinogenic drug to come close to understanding it, though. The main character is a Japanese man who wakes up to find that radish plants are growing out of pores on both of his legs (fortunately the plants are tasty, so he is able to snack on them at times). He undertakes an increasingly bizarre journey to seek a cure for his malady, occasionally aided and accompanied by an attractive nurse who collects blood from anyone she can, in her quest to win the Dracula's Daughter award. He encounters singing child-demons, strange fellow patients, and a motorized bed which transports him throughout the story and responds to thought commands. It was completely nonsensical and mildly humorous, but I can't say that I enjoyed it.
I had previously read Kobo Abe's "The Box Man" and thought I would give "The Kangaroo Notebook" a shot. I enjoyed the book and found it to be a nice change from Jules Verne's "20000 Leagues Under the Sea" (although squid still seemed to be an ongoing topic) This book is absurdly surreal and at times difficult to follow, but overall it is well worth the effort. The story can be perceived in many ways, however, I viewed the narrative to be an allegorical reference to the medical field and the estrangement of the incurable patient.