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The Face of Another [Paperback]

Kobo Abe
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 4 2003 Vintage International
Like an elegantly chilling postscript to The Metamorphosis, this classic of postwar Japanese literature describes a bizarre physical transformation that exposes the duplicities of an entire world. The narrator is a scientist hideously deformed in a laboratory accident–a man who has lost his face and, with it, his connection to other people. Even his wife is now repulsed by him.

His only entry back into the world is to create a mask so perfect as to be undetectable. But soon he finds that such a mask is more than a disguise: it is an alternate self–a self that is capable of anything. A remorseless meditation on nature, identity and the social contract, The Face of Another is an intellectual horror story of the highest order.

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The Face of Another + The Woman in the Dunes
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Review

"A fascinating book.... The world of Kobo Abe is one in which intellectual concepts have the emotional impact and motivating power of psychotic compulsions."–Newsweek

"A major novel... Since The Woman in the Dunes, Kobo Abe's stock as a novelist has been very high. The Face of Another raises it still more."–The Christian Science Monitor

"Probes the edges of a waking nightmare....The central, shaping metaphor of face and facelessness is brilliant, and Abe's relentless pursuit of its every implication is powerful."–The Saturday Review

From the Back Cover

"A fascinating book.... The world of Kobo Abe is one in which intellectual concepts have the emotional impact and motivating power of psychotic compulsions."–Newsweek

"A major novel... Since The Woman in the Dunes, Kobo Abe's stock as a novelist has been very high. The Face of Another raises it still more."–The Christian Science Monitor

"Probes the edges of a waking nightmare....The central, shaping metaphor of face and facelessness is brilliant, and Abe's relentless pursuit of its every implication is powerful."–The Saturday Review

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Achievement Oct. 1 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Not one of the truly great novels, no doubt (and there are so few), but outstanding and amazing, nonetheless. Recommended, despite philosophical musings of a gratuitous density and complexity -- at times, quite beyond full comprehension.
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1.0 out of 5 stars a disgrace to Abe March 26 2000
Format:Paperback
I've loved most of the Abe that I've read, but this one was terrible. The "philosophical musings" mentioned by one reviewer are complete BS. The main character constantly reads deep philosophical meaning into things that are very straightforward. Don't waste your money on this--read The Woman in the Dunes or Kangaroo Notebook instead.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Slow-going at first but well worth it! July 8 1999
Format:Paperback
I initially found this novel hard to respect since the central theme of a man and his mask seemed trite and a cliche. However this setup does allow the novel's main character to seduce his wife, posing as a stranger; a strange social situation which was described with much empathy and insight by Abe.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A face to meet the faces that we meet... May 16 2007
By Mark Nadja - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Everyone knows that in Japanese society there's hardly anything worse than losing face. Kobo Abe starts with this cultural taboo and amplifies it to its logically nightmarish extreme as he explores the existential horror experienced by a scientist who literally loses his face in a laboratory accident. Hideously disfigured and shunned even by his former friends and colleagues, the narrator of *The Face of Another* describes in harrowing detail the totality of his isolation from human contact--especially from his conventional, well-meaning wife--and his desperate plan to create for himself a life-like mask that will reopen the `doorway' between him and the community of others.

The novel itself is written as an extended address to the aforementioned wife and meant to be read after he carries out his intention of seducing her as the `stranger' the mask allows him to become. Between the elaborate preparation of the mask and the ill-fated seduction, Abe's narrator travels a zig-zag path between cynicism and self-loathing, psychological breakdown and philosophical speculation as he confronts the elusive nature of human relations and personal identity. His mask gives him a passport to cross the border forbidden the faceless and to re-enter society. Even more, it grants him the radical freedom to be someone else, to be anyone else...to be everyone else. But at what price? If he must wear a mask has he really accomplished anything? Is he really being seen by others or is his `true' self as invisible as before--and just who is he, anyway? How does he choose his mask? Does a mask ultimately reveal or conceal? Which mask will his estranged wife be seduced by? And if she is seduced, has she been unfaithful? Has she betrayed him with himself? As he contemplates these labyrinthine questions, Abe's narrator comes to understand how even people with undamaged faces are also wearing a mask when they're with others. Is the face itself nothing but a mask made of flesh?

This eerie, thought-provoking novel operates on several different levels. But what makes it more than just another Jeckyll & Hyde tale of evil doubles, shadow-selves, and dual identities is the profound philosophical dialectic that Abe engages in throughout. A mystery, thriller, horror novel all in one, *The Face of Another* is a sophisticated meditation on that most enigmatic question of all: who exactly are we?

At times Abe's story drags, at other times his musings are difficult to follow, almost as if some vital connection between his observations had been lost in translation, and, therefore minus one-star, but, the last fifty pages or so are as powerful as anything you're likely to read. For the most part, *The Face of Another* is a riveting and disturbing work that, like Abe's classic *The Woman in the Dunes,* I won't soon--if ever--forget. You probably won't either.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow-going at first but well worth it! July 8 1999
By Jim Conant - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I initially found this novel hard to respect since the central theme of a man and his mask seemed trite and a cliche. However this setup does allow the novel's main character to seduce his wife, posing as a stranger; a strange social situation which was described with much empathy and insight by Abe.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The absurdity is almost a character. April 3 2007
By Michael Tillman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book begins odd and gets creepy and ends, I believe, scary. At the outset you have a feeling of sympathy for the character, which grows into 1 of 2 things as the book progresses - detached fascination with Abe's character study, or revulsion. Possibly both.

The philosophical musings are there, but what hasn't been mentioned here is the flawed narrator. The musings themselves may be bs, but because our sympathy hasn't been completely destroyed when they begin, we give them the benefit of the doubt. That they become more and more absurd is to give an idea of the heightened sense of fear in the narrator about the impending action. At first we disagree with what he says (early on) but at the same time, due to our involvement, ask 'to what extent could that be true, or to what extent is it in fact true, if we look at it in a slightly different light?'

I personally prefer this to Kangaroo Notebook, which, while outrageous and a fun read, is effective not for its realism, but for its fantasy. This book, on the other hand, produces its effects more believably, because there's really nothing to prevent this exact person from existing.

I feel it is an interesting predecessor to Vanilla Sky based of course on the mask and also on the theme of isolation. It also reminds me of Palahniuk's 'Survivor' through the looking glass - a very opposite character, introverted, but also because of the ending - a very similar truncation that implies...

Engrossing read.
5.0 out of 5 stars Suspenseful with a mind boggling affect! Oct. 26 2004
By Emerson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I loved this book and will be giving it for holiday gifts this year. The philosophical musings are incredibly powerful and thought provoking, while the prose is intense and suspenseful. After page 83, I found myself yelling outloud to the narrator whose journal we read as he attempts to deal with the aftermath of an accident that has stolen his face. I dare you to read this book and look at your self and others the same way you did before.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Achievement Oct. 1 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Not one of the truly great novels, no doubt (and there are so few), but outstanding and amazing, nonetheless. Recommended, despite philosophical musings of a gratuitous density and complexity -- at times, quite beyond full comprehension.
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