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Beyond the Curve (Modern Japanese Writers Series) Paperback – February, 1993

4.1 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this first collection of short fiction, Abe confirms his reputation as one of Japan's most significant modern writers. The tightly drawn, surrealistic tales proceed from the same premise: an ordinary individual is suddenly thrust into extraordinary, often nightmarish circumstances that lead him to question his identity. In "An Irrelevant Death," a man returns from work to confront a corpse in his apartment. Contemplating ways to get rid of the body, he finds himself increasingly implicated in the stranger's death. On a lighter note, "Dendrocacalia" describes the plight of a bewildered man named Common, who discovers he has turned into a rare plant, placed in a botanical garden. The almost lulling repetitiveness of "Record of a Transformation" underscores the senseless brutality of war as, at the height of battle, an executed soldier describes his horrifying experiences among the dead and the living. The beautifully conceived title story describes the actions of a man with amnesia trying to remember his past just "beyond the curve." Abe blends elements of suspense and science fiction to create a form singularly his own.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This collection of stories is a significant offering from the well-established author best known for The Woman in the Dunes (1964). The usual comparisons to Kafka are unavoidable. In one story, a man finds himself turning into a plant, and the themes of alienation and disorientation in the face of urban life and oppressive political and social systems are pervasive and relentless. More subtle systems of thought are sometimes hinted at rather than explicated, however, and the disorientation so skillfully induced in the reader is sometimes left unresolved. This might not be to everyone's taste, but for those interested in Abe's work or in the future of serious Japanese fiction, this is an entertaining and fascinating volume. Some stories have the feel of sketches that might be further developed in Abe's longer fiction, and the influence on a new generation of writers, such as Haruki Murakami, can be readily seen. Recommended.
- Mark Woodhouse, Gannett-Tripp Lib., Elmira Coll., N.Y.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: Modern Japanese Writers Series
  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha Amer Inc (February 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770016905
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770016904
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.5 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #546,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James W. Fonseca on October 15, 2015
Format: Paperback
Great short stories from Japan; kind of a cross between Stephen King and Kafka. The author is perhaps best known for his “Woman in the Dunes.” Like many modern Japanese stories, these feature mental anguish and alienation. Many of the characters are men living alone, friendless and disconnected from society, confronting inner demons and suffering the terrors of their minds. Some stories involve magical realism.

In the title story, a man can’t bring himself to walk past a curve in the road to get home. Little by little he discovers he can no longer remember who he is or what he is doing. In another story, a man’s business card pirates his identity. (We’re all heard how important business cards are in Japanese culture). Another man comes home to find a dead body in his apartment and he tries to hide it rather than calling the police. Not a wise move.

In another story a man’s life is so futile that he lets himself be talked into becoming a tree to be taken care of, on display in an arboretum. Men in wartime return as ghosts, riding in the jeep in which they were killed. A poor poet’s mother weaves herself into a jacket to keep her son warm. A boisterous multi-generational family take over a man’s apartment and turns him into their slave. An architect is hired to design a bizarre internally-disconnected building for a modern corporation. Two men terrorize passengers overnight in a semi-deserted train station in a cat-and-mouse game: which one is the escaped mental patient and which one is the guard trying to bring him in? Stories you will remember.
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Format: Hardcover
Beyond the Curve by Kobo Abe is one of the best compilations of short stories I've read. His style is like a blend of Rod Serling, Stephen King and Salvador Dali. Each tale is strange and unique and tests the limits of your imagination. As much as I like his other books, this one is my favorite because it runs the gamut of his storytelling style from novels like Woman in the Dunes to the outrageously surreal Kangaroo Notebook. If you haven't read any of Abe's work, Beyond the Curve is a great introduction.
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Format: Paperback
I really recommend this book, although I only gave it four stars because the stories might be too similar to each other for my taste. I'd like just a little more variety in the range of emotions and plot twists. It is easy to say that Abe is good, of course, because he is such a widely recognized writer. I'd like to say, though, that he is so good that he can actually make a reader angry (many of his stories create a feeling of boxed-in, controlled frustration I never encountered in any other writer).
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Format: Paperback
This collection of short stories by Kobo Abe was a challenge for me. I don't generally enjoy short stories that much, and my interest in surrealism is limited. Still, I found them compelling despite the tendency toward studies in frustration. "Intruders" was especially so, with the protagonist powerless against those taking over first his apartment, then his livelihood, and finally his life. My favorite story was "Beguiled," where in a confrontation between two men, one is the pursuer, the other the pursued . . . but which is which? This book was translated from Japanese, and although some of the phrasing seems awkward at times, it actually enhances the overall surrealism of Abe's writing. Definitely worth reading, but only worth full price if this is your favorite genre. Try the local library or used book shop.
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