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The Face of Another Paperback – Feb 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 237 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; Reprint edition (Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375726535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375726538
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,626,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Kobo Abe was born in Tokyo in 1924, grew up in Manchuria, and returned to Japan in his early twenties. Before his death in 1993, Abe was considered his country's foremost living novelist. His novels have earned many literary awards and prizes, and have all been bestsellers in Japan. They include THE WOMAN IN THE DUNES, THE ARK SAKURA, THE FACE OF ANOTHER, THE BOX MAN, and THE RUINED MAP.

Kaori Nagai graduated from the University of Tokyo and obtained a doctorate in Postcolonial Studies from the University of Kent, UK, where she currently teaches. She is the author of Empire of Analogies: Kipling, India and Ireland (forthcoming: Cork University Press).

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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At last you have come, threading your way through the endless passages of the maze. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Amazon Customer on 15 July 2012
Format: Paperback
A "persona" in the standard vernacular, refers to a social role or character performed by an actor. The word is thought to have derived from Latin, where it's original meaning referred to a theatrical mask. The Latin word probably has it's roots in the Etruscan word "Phersu" which had the same meaning*. In the study of communication, persona is a term used to describe the versions of self that all individuals possess, with behaviours selected like masks according to the impression an individual wishes to project when interacting with others. Therefore, "personas" presented to other people will vary according to the social environment a person is engaged in and the persona presented before others will differ from the one an individual will display when they happen to be alone. According to Carl Jung whilst a child is growing, the development of a viable social persona is a vital part of adapting to and in preparation for adult life in the external social world - 'A strong ego relates to the outside world through a flexible persona; identification with a specific persona (doctor, scholar, artist, etc.) inhibits psychological development'. For Jung the danger was that people become identical with their personas (the doctor with his stethoscope, the conductor with her baton ) resulting in what could be a shallow, brittle, conformist kind of personality which is "all mask".

The Face of Another (1964) was Kobe Abe's first major novel after the success of The Women in the Dunes (1962) and like that book follows the theme of the modern individuals alienation with the society they live in.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book having read one other Abe book (The Ark Sakura) and having seen the movie Face of Another by Hiroshi Teshigahara. Perhaps this helped me persevere with the effort that is admittedly required in getting through some of the more obscure philosophical passages in this book. The longwindedness of these musings seems to serve more than the immediate purpose of philosophy; it also portrays the mental torture that the protaganist inflicts upon himself through his over-analysis of his condition.

Abe was surely a genius and I have rarely read a book so provocative regarding personality. In that sense it seems to have something in common to, say, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I would not claim to fully understand the book of course but I do think that it is much more about personality than being some sort of allegory about post-war Japan as has been suggested.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 July 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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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Greshon on 12 Nov 2007
Format: Paperback
After reading the superb Woman in the Dunes, I wanted to read more Abe Kobo, but so far this has led to disappointment. This is better than Inter-Ice Age 4 but it spends far too much time philosophising and far too little time on the action.

The best bit by far comes at the end of the novel, in which something from earlier on, initially presented as incidental, is revealed. The meaning of the novel is expanded, and the narrator's scarred face becomes a metaphor for a Japan ravaged by WW2.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 12 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A face to meet the faces that we meet... 16 May 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
Slow-going at first but well worth it! 8 July 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.
Suspenseful with a mind boggling affect! 26 Oct 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.
The Face of Another is Intriguing! 13 Sep 2014
By Alex - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Abe describes a scientist who after an accident causing him to break out in skin lesions on his face feels that he has lost a way to communicate with his wife and others. To try to regain this he creates a mask and it becomes more than just a replacement for his face but it comes with a different personality as well. Will the man in the mask get caught up in his new alter ego?
A Dark Face 8 Jun 2014
By Liquid Faith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first became aware of Kobo Abe through the Criterion DVD box set of Hiroshi Teshigahara's film's of Kobo Abe's books and screenplays. Also discovering the sound design of Toru Takemitsu. I bring all of them up because the 3 together produced in collaboration and own there own some of the most amazing Japanese art ever produced. As far as the author Kobo Abe I must say I now own 6 of his books. I must state first in comparison to the film, Face of Another is far different. But I won't dwell on the film other than to say it is a masterpiece of filming. The book surprised me. Simply because I saw the film first. The book is very different from the film in structure and more was added to the film. I would say the first part of the book is slow. It's written in notebook form and does drag a bit. All concerning the main character and the making of the mask. The second half however makes up for anything lacking in the first half. Once the mask is on, the identity begins to change. This is really what the book is about. The story of a man who gets his face burnt off in an industrial accident and makes a human mask of another man which he substitutes for his own. This book to me is in a fiction setting is a psychological study on identity and how it can alter a man into becoming a monster. Through taking on the persona of another man. After all if one could become two people what would one half do? I won't give away the ending other than to say it is ambiguous at best. That said I still think out of the 4 Kobo Abe books I've read (still have 2 to go), it was worth the read. But I have to say I liked the film better. So in regret to Mr. Abe this one gets a 4 star. It's still worth the read, just be patient and it will slowly take on a really good read.
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