The Box Man

The Box Man

by Kobo Abe


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Kobo Abe, the internationally acclaimed author of Woman in the Dunes, combines wildly imaginative fantasies and naturalistic prose to create narratives reminiscent of the work of Kafka and Beckett.

In this eerie and evocative masterpiece, the nameless protagonist gives up his identity and the trappings of a normal life to live in a large cardboard box he wears over his head. Wandering the streets of Tokyo and scribbling madly on the interior walls of his box, he describes the world outside as he sees or perhaps imagines it, a tenuous reality that seems to include a mysterious rifleman determined to shoot him, a seductive young nurse, and a doctor who wants to become a box man himself. The Box Man is a marvel of sheer originality and a bizarrely fascinating fable about the very nature of identity.

Translated from the Japanese by E. Dale Saunders.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375726514
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/10/2001
Series: Vintage International Series
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 586,114
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile: 950L (what's this?)

About the Author

Kobo Abe was born in Tokyo in 1924, grew up in Manchuria, and returned to Japan in his early twenties. In 1948 he receiveved a medical degree from Tokyo Imperial University, but he never practiced medicine. Before his death in 1993, Abe was considered his country’s foremost living novelist, and was also widely known as a dramatist. His novels have earned many literary awards and prizes, and have all been bestsellers in Japan. They include The Woman in the Dunes, Kangaroo Notebook, The Ark Sakura, The Face of Another, The Box Man, and Secret Rendezvous.

What People are Saying About This

Donald Keene

A finely drawn masterpiece.

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The Box Man 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
araridan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So this book is weird, and I have to confess that I wasn't always exactly sure what was going on... Mainly the story reads like a journal of a "Box Man" or basically someone who has decided to drop out of society in favor of wearing a cardboard box at all times. However, you can also tell that Abe has a background in science (medicine), because we are given detailed directions at the beginning regarding the construction of the box and specific details about survival methods, as though we were reading a manual on "How to be a Box Man." The story can be viewed as an examination of the intentionally homeless, existentialists, or a comment on the nature of identity. There's also a lot concerning the act of seeing and being seen. Also, sexual frustration or deviancy seems to have a correlation with choosing the "box." There isn't a very concrete plotline, but we know that a box man is shot a by an air rifle and also offered 50,000 yen to discard his box. Tension is great between box men and the rest of society. Later, he has interactions with a fake box man and a woman who seems to be perpetually nude. Overall, I enjoyed the format and the issues the story examines. An unconventional read.
SteveSilkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A weird labyrinth of a book - very difficult to read the first part. The box man, the fake box man, the nurse ... ah, but then there is the story of the doctor in the war. Are they the same story, told different ways? (Especially interesting because Abe had been a medical student: it's possible the story of the doctor during the war is something he might've heard or known of.) And what to make of the young boy peeping at the end? Did that determine his fate to 'peep' out of the slot in the box? One of the strangest books of the 20th century. Very challenging.
junevonjune on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Why I love Kobo Abe. One is never sure where one is, metaphor reigns, metaphysics take over, or is it something you are missing? Like the face of another it brings into questions of identity and self, and existence.
zsms on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of those lovely books I can re-read over and over and come up with a different theory for what's going on each time. The translation is a bit unreliable (identical passages in the Japanese are translated differently, etc.). It might help to know a bit about Japanese culture before reading this, but I don't believe it needs to be read as social commentary exclusively about the Japanese.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Definitely merits more than one reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago