How contemporaries read Abe Kobo?


1. Haniya Yutaka
2. Hanada Kiyoteru
3. Isikawa Jun
4. A board of Akutagawa Award
5. Communist writers
6. Mishima Yukio
7. Americans
8. Men of Theatre

1. Haniya Yutaka

Haniya Yutaka is the first man of letters who estimated Abe Kobo. In 1947, Abe sent a manuscript of his first novel titled Nendo Be (Clay Walls, afterward re-titled For the Signpost at the End of the Road) to Abe Rokuro, his former teacher of German at Sejo high-school. Abe Rokuro was impressed and sent it to his friend Haniya, who had just started a little magazine titled Kindai Bungaku (Modern Literature) and looked for new writers.

Haniya wrote;

Clay Walls was a splendid work. I found one of the long-expected writers, who described ontological aspects of human. ..... I decided to introduce it to a commercial magazine Kose, because I could not pay for the poor new writer. (On Abe Kobo, in August 1951 issue of Kindai Bungaku)

The first part of For the Signpost at the End of the Road (Clay Walls) was appeared on Kose in the next year. Abe joined Haniya's avant-garde group named Yoru no Kai (Group of Night), in which he made friends with young artists and writers.

When Abe published Kabe (The Walls) in 1951, Haniya paid his best tribute to him;

Abe Kobo started from Heideggar and literally from Sina Rinzo and Haniya Yutaka, if I could say so. These two writers are groping about for the metaphysical and inner laws in novels. It is the first and the last chance that Abe contacts with Japanese literature. Abe rushed into the avant-garde arts of 20th century leaving old two writers who trails tracks of 19th century. (On Abe Kobo's Kabe, in Ningen April 1951)

Haniya wrote that Abe is not only his successor but also surpassed himself. How Abe did? According to Haniya, Abe adapted methodology of formative arts to literature. In Dendrocacaria, Abe describes a face turned over, which looks like Picasso's pictures in Cubism style. Apollinaire, Kafka, Haniya and Isikawa Jun were also interested in methodology of avant-garde arts, but they were still imprisoned within moralistic ideas and satire.

Abe is challenging to break this front line. He is applying avant-garde arts method, which is capable of observing objects simultaneously, poliphonically and dynamically, to human and he got finally the excellent work; the Walls. (Ibd.)

Though Haniya and his Kindai Bungaku were positioned in the main stream of Japanese literary world after World War II, his works are considered heretic. It is not wonder that he was so glad to find Abe's works.

Haniya published 4 of memorial address over the death of Abe. In an essay, he looked back upon a "guilty conscious" for him to abandon medical course, when he visited him to see poverty in late 1940s.

2. Hanada Kiyoteru

Hanada Kiyoteru, critic, was a member of Yoru no Kai and a theoretical leader of avant-garde arts in Japan after World War II. He was executive adviser of Sinzenbisha Corp. and made plans for its Series of Apres-Guerre New Writers, which featured Sire (Death Spirits) by Haniya Yutaka. Abe's first novel, For the Signpost at the End of the Road, was published from Sinzenbisha on his recommendation.

Hanada advocated the Kobutushugi (Mineralism), revolution of a sense of values with the materialism. For him, Manchuria deserts described in Abe's novel was a suitable model of his Mineralism. Contemporaries regarded Abe as a faithful pupil of Hanada School.

It seems that Abe wrote Tanin no Kao (Face of Another, 1964) inspired with a Hanada's essay, Kamen no Hyojo (Features of a Mask, 1949). It is no exaggeration to say that Face of Another is the novelization of Hanada's ironical consideration on the mask.

However I do not agree that Abe was one-sidedly influenced by Hanada. In 1948, maybe just after he got acquainted with Abe, he wrote an essay titled as Sabaku ni tuite (On Desert), which resembles Abe's Kabe (The Wall, 1951) in describing vast desert and aspects of sands. Hanada's essay was the origin of Abe's masterpiece? I do not think so, because Abe was brought up in Manchuria desert, but on the other hand Hanada was not familiar with sands nor deserts.

It is possible that Hanada embodied the abstract materialism in his original Mineralism inspired with Abe's first novel on Manchuria. Perhaps they were influenced each other.

We are surprised that Hanada seldom dealt with Abe. Bramus wa osuki? (Do you like Bramus?, 1960) is the sole review he discussed principally Abe's works excepting a few short essays.

In first, he made fun of Yosimoto Ryume (father of Yosimoto Banana), who was no more than a decadent writer "standing stupidly and posing as a high brow artist". He admired Abe for standing against such decadence. Abe, in his early stories, frequently wrote metamorphoses to vegetables, which meant falling into decadent self-satisfaction.

On the other hand, Abe refused to metamorphose to vegetable in his Dendrocacalia. Although he felt lazy self-satisfaction comfortable, an inner demon made him to run out as a human being, in stead of falling into a doze as a vegetable. (Do you like Bramus?, 1960)

His explication is equivalent, because hero of Suna no Onna (The Woman in the Dunes, 1962) abandoned to escape from the pit and accepted vegetable-like life. I think Hanada was critical of Abe in 1960s.

(to be continued)

Copyright 1996 Kato Koiti
This page was created on August 24 1996.

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