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Kobo Abe “The Bet”

I’ve finished the last class of this term. The best thing about these classes is that we were able to exchange so many interesting ideas with one another. Thank you all again for your wonderful participation!



Kobo Abe was born in 1924, which made him an exact contemporary of Yukio Mishima who was born in 1925. There was a stark contrast between the two in that whereas Mishima in a way represented the traditional Japanese culture, Abe was noted for his avant-garde style. The fact that he was not that drawn to Japanese classics might be attributed to the fact that he had been born in Manchuria. The loss of identity, the feeling of “out of place” never left him until he died and was one of the biggest themes he tackled.


His father was practicing medicine in Manchuria and because of his father’s influence, Abe entered Tokyo Imperial University to study medicine. Abe once jokingly said he was allowed to graduate with the medical license with the condition that he would never practice medicine himself. This major in a way made his writing style different from others. Like Ogai and Chekhov, both of whom were a medical doctor, Abe is well-known for his objective writing style in which he could depict situations, or even emotion, with detached precision.


Abe’s themes were quite diverse ranging from alienation to absurdism, surrealism, Marxism and postmodernism. In “The Bet”, you can find criticism and absurdity of capitalism; how advertisements use psychology and appeal to the subconscious of people; and Japanese corporate culture which asks too much of its employees.


One of his most representative work is “The Woman in the Dunes”, which has been translated into more than 20 languages. His works are definitely worth reading.


From the next week, Sunday, October 4, a new term will start! The writer will be Shusaku Endo, whose work “Silence” was used for Scorsese’s film.


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