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The Box Man: A Novel Paperback – July 10, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (July 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375726519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375726514
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The nature of identity itself is the ostensible subject of this bizarrely fascinating existential novel from the great Japanese fiction writer and dramatist Kobo Abe. In the story, a man decides to give up the self that he has been all his life to attain a state of blissful anonymity. He leaves his world behind and moves onto the streets of Tokyo. He puts a large box over his head, cuts a hole for his eyes. It is as strange as it sounds, but Abe's light touch and narrative innovation makes it compelling. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A spellbinder from beginnning to end, an edgy masterpiece.”–Chicago Sun-Times

“A stunning addition to the literature of eccentricity…an ontological thriller.”–The New York Times

“Brilliant…. Like Kafka’s, Abe’s work reveals an astonishing ability to create dreamlike events."–Chicago Tribune

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Customer Reviews

I had to read The Box Man for my Japanese Culture class.
Felipe Naranjo
This is a work to be read and reread, and for those who take the time there will be few who are disappointed.
mrgrieves08
The uncertainty when reading it can be rather disorienting.
skooly

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By "longggg_duree" on January 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
a contemporary novel of fragmented identity which examines the ultimate failure of signification...so comparisons to beckett are pretty relevant i would say. as with beckett, 'the box man' confronts readers with a real rupture of traditional narrator/reader relationships, and delivers the narrative in such a dispersed manner that you are really left without a cohesive idea of what agency gave you the information you read. the real box man, the fake box man, the real doctor, the fake doctor...all of these are thrown out there for you to sort out. characters begin to refer to ideas or possible actions rather than tangible indentities. in the end, abe tells a story of the contemporary predicament of representation and the psychology of a society in which we increasing interact with representations of things rather than the things themselves. the box man is a man who, saturated with the mediated representations of radio and television, is unable to have normal human interactions with people, he can only look and never be looked at. 'the box man' is an excellent treatment of these very relevant contemporary cultural issues, a frustrating read, but an excellent novel.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By mrgrieves08 on July 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you like Kafka, Pynchon, Beckett, or Burroughs you will probably like this novel. This is a work that will occupy your mind long after you have finished the last page. Its greatness lies in Abe's keen ability to personify the darkest dreams and innermost desires of modern humanity. The main character, the Box Man, could be anyone. He is merely an anonymous person who yearns for escape from the dehumanizing conditions of modern life. The plot is interesting, alluring, and above all puzzling, without being inaccessible to the average reader. This is a work to be read and reread, and for those who take the time there will be few who are disappointed.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
If you liked Samuel Beckett's book "Watt", then you'll love 'The Box Man'. 'The Box Man' is a psychotic tale of disassociation in a world that echoes that of the medical nightmares in William S. Burrough's 'Blade Runner: A Movie'.
You really don't want to know more about 'The Box Man' at this moment, deciding what is going on is one of the main pleasures of reading the book, Abe's wacked style is another.
I'd never read any of Kobo Abe's work before and found 'The Box Man' fascinatingly disturbed. If you want it weird, get this book. I'm definitely going to read more of his works.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Felipe Naranjo on March 2, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had to read The Box Man for my Japanese Culture class. I can honestly say it was one of the most powerful novels I've ever read. Abe takes you into a fantastical story in which the very pilars of human behavior are challenged to the utmost. It is just as ontologically significant as novel like Notes from Underground by Dostoevsky, or The Methamorphosis by Kafka. After reading some more of his work, I cannot believe Kobo Abe never received a Nobel Prize, but oh well, at least he was nominated several times. :)
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By skooly on September 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
Having put off reading this book until I moved back to Tokyo I'd say the box man mentality fits nicely with foreigners trying to understand Japan. Someone first descibed living in Tokyo to me like floating in a warm bubble. Unless you speak the language or fit in culturally you'll always be a casual observer. The longer you stay in that bubble the more distorted your view becomes. For those on the fringes of Japanese society it's easy to see how one might simply want to stick a box on their head and call it a day.

Aside from the obvious Japanese angle on things Abe weaves a nice commentary on communication in general. Mary M. Watkins' "Invisible Guests" treads a similar path by examining how we construct imaginary personas. Over time what we imagine and what we experience blend into the same thing. Part of the appeal in reading The Box Man is that we're dumped right into the main character(s) head and it's left up to us to figure how many people and scenarios are actually "real". For all we know the whole thing might be in the box man's head - or not. The uncertainty when reading it can be rather disorienting. Anyone who reads it is ultimately a box man themselves; a passive observer just trying to digest some weirdness. His reality is in now your head whether you like it or not.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Andrij W. Zip on June 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
I picked this up on a whim at the library and read the back:

"...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."

I thought that sounded like an intriguing concept and have enjoyed other works by Abe in the past and his Kafka-esque sense of reality so I took it out.

I was quite disappointed once I finished it. I did not enjoy reading The Box Man and struggled to finish it.

There are things I liked about it - the concept is intriguing, the intricate narrative structure, and I liked the mystery of just who the Box Man is. It is also quite original but that alone doesn't make it a good book. The Box Man simply isn't a pleasure to read, the story and the characters are about as compelling as watching grass grow, it's overwritten, pretentious, boring, and at less than 200 pages, too long. I also think that Abe explores the nature of identity much better in his other books, particularly The Ruined Map: A Novel. Here it just seems forced and muddled.

If you're going to read Abe, I recommend the aforementioned Ruined Map or The Woman in the Dunes over this.
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