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

4.1 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; unknown edition (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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Really, really difficult to rate The Box Man. Did I love it? No - well not in terms of it leaving you in a joyous state or astounded by the wondrous prose. But it is a remarkable piece - mesmerising, haunting and more than a little frightening. And I can't stop thinking about it (much though I've tried) - and any book that can have that impact deserves five stars - not for `I love it', but because it is extraordinary.

The prose might not be wonderful (noting that Abe was clearly very capable as shown in The Woman in the Dunes) - but there is still much incredible writing. As example - the cold, analytical description of the naked nurse, as seen by the box man through a rear vision mirror held up to the hospital window, captures the contra-seductive and totally counter-erotic feel of this bizarre scene. The disjointed, Dadaist style leads you on a confusing, almost delirious journey between the box man, the fake box man, yet another maybe fake box man, the real doctor and the fake doctor. Was there a murder (or assisted suicide) or was it all just a dream? Just who is the narrator? I think the pieces fall into place, but who can be sure?

Hard to imagine a box man life evolving in any other culture outside of Japan - and it is a tribute to Japanese literature that such a theme can be embraced as real/valid and a tribute to Kobo Abe for turning it into a masterpiece.

This is a difficult piece of writing (and reading!) and I expect many will not enjoy it - but try looking beyond `enjoy' and I think you will find this read intriguing.
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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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