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source of true experience. Abe Kòbò, on the other hand, transcended
this particularism of so many Japanese writers and dealt more universally with the self of modern man. A writer of enormous imaginative
power—much influenced by Kafka—who wove his bizarre tales as parables on the plight of contemporary existence, Abe was preoccupied with
the themes of personal freedom, the urge to attain it, and the equally
powerful urge to prevent or escape from it. In The Ruined Map (Moetsukita Chizu, 1967), for example, his hero is a private detective investigating a man’s disappearance, who eventually confuses his own identity with
that of the man he is seeking. The cause of this confusion is suggested in
the following dialogue the detective has with a possible witness to the
disappearance. The witness speaks first:
“Why does the world take it for granted that there’s a right to pursue people?
Someone who hasn’t committed any crime. I can’t understand how you can
assume, as if it were a matter of course, that there is some right that lets you
seize a man who has gone off of his own free will.”
“By the same reasoning the one left behind might insist that there was no
right to go away.”
“Going off is not a right but a question of will.”
“Maybe pursuit is a matter of will too.”
“Then, I’m neutral. I don’t want to be anyone’s friend or enemy.”55 Abe seems to be telling us that some people will always try to escape
from the restraints of society and their humdrum existences and that
others will just as surely pursue them and attempt to entrap them again.
Pursuer and pursued are likely to be motivated by the same force of will
and, in their special relationship, may indeed appear to be very similar,
if not identical.
Abe’s concern was with freedom not as an intellectual ideal but as an
emotional craving. The paradox of his message is that freedom, once Culture in the Present Age 343 achieved, may incite the same desire to escape as did one’s previous state
of real or imagined captivity. Abe’s finest statement of this paradox...
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- Spring '13