Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Face of Another by Kobo Abe

Face of Another is a kind of post-Kafka take on the experiment gone wrong stories of Wells and Stevenson. Abe sometimes sinks his narrative drive by fully realizing the artifice through which he is revealing his story, here it is the notebooks of the scientist who creates the titular object, written to his wife. This mirrors the structures of Secret Rendezvous and Box Man and in the final post-script of the wife echoes the finale of Tanizaki’s The Key. The notebooks contain anecdotal philosophizing and scientific procedures, alongside manic confessions and visceral accounts of his dissociative panic, and accounts of folk tales and movies that reflect the book’s themes. Things start to pick in the second half as the narrator’s eccentric behavior increases, his identity becomes frayed, and he literally begins haunting his own life. Abe also continues his willingness to take a central metaphor and discuss from as many possible angles and permutations with a mix of profound, witty, silly, and nightmarish discussions of the implications of faces and mask; especially pertaining to the lack of the former and the destruction of identify possible with the later. Another creepy parade of thought provoking images by a master of the surreal and macabre.

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