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Frontier Within: Essays by Abe Kobo

by Kobo Abe Columbia University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 224 pages
AU$122.00 NZ$126.96
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Abe Kobo (1924--1993) was one of Japan's greatest postwar writers, recognized widely for his science fiction and plays of the absurd. He also wrote keen theoretical criticism for which he is lesser known, merging literary, historical, and philosophical perspectives. From the nature of creativity to the evolution of the human species, Abe tackled contemporary social issues and literary theory with the depth and facility of a visionary thinker. Featuring twelve essays from twenty-five years of Abe's prolific career, including his 1944 'Poetry and Poets (Consciousness and the Unconscious)' and his 1969 'The Frontier Within, Part II,' this anthology for the first time introduces English-speaking readers to Abe as critic and intellectual. Proving the importance of his theoretical work to a broader understanding of his fiction -- and a richer portrait of Japan's postwar imagination -- Richard F. Calichman provides a substantial introduction to Abe's achievements and situates his essays within historical and intellectual trends.

"Poetry and Poets (Consciousness and the Unconscious)" (Shi to shijin [Ishiki to muishiki]) (1944)
"Theory and Practice in Literature" (Bungaku ni okeru riron to jissen) (1954)
"The Hand of a Calculator with the Heart of a Beast: What Is Literature?" (Moju no kokoro ni keisanki no te wo: Bungaku to ha nanika) (1955)
"Discovering America" (Amerika hakken) (1957)
"Does the Visual Image Destroy the Walls of Language?" (Eizo ha gengo no kabe wo hakai suru ka) (1960)
"Artistic Revolution: Theory of the Art Movement" (Geijutsu no kakumei: Geijutsu undo no riron) (1960)
"Possibilities for Education Today: On the Essence of Human Existence" (Gendai ni okeru kyoiku no kanosei: Ningen sonzai no honshitsu ni furete) (1965)
"Beyond the Neighbor" (Rinjin wo koeru mono) (1966)
"The Military Look" (Miritari rukku) (1968)
"Passport of Heresy" (Itan no pasupoto) (1968)
"The Frontier Within" (Uchi naru henkyo) (1968)
"The Frontier Within, Part II" (Zoku: Uchi naru henkyo) (1969)
Index of Names

The Border Within redresses the lopsided and biased understanding of Abe Kobo as solely a writer of fiction. First and foremost a thinker, he was extremely conscious of the fundamental conditions in which language operated and human existence was formed. The essays in this volume provide wonderful insight into Abe's engagement with imperialism, border creation, postwar 'democracy,' U.S.-Japan relations, and postwar Japanese Marxism. Atsuko Ueda, Princeton University
Richard F. Calichman is professor of Japanese studies at the City College of New York, CUNY. His previous publications include Overcoming Modernity: Cultural Identity in Wartime Japan; Contemporary Japanese Thought; What is Modernity?: Writings of Takeuchi Yoshimi; and Takeuchi Yoshimi: Displacing the West.