cover image Beyond the Curve (And Other Stories)

Beyond the Curve (And Other Stories)

Kobo Abe. Kodansha International (JPN), $18.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-4-7700-1465-8

In this first collection of short fiction, Abe confirms his reputation as one of Japan's most significant modern writers. The tightly drawn, surrealistic tales proceed from the same premise: an ordinary individual is suddenly thrust into extraordinary, often nightmarish circumstances that lead him to question his identity. In ``An Irrelevant Death,'' a man returns from work to confront a corpse in his apartment. Contemplating ways to get rid of the body, he finds himself increasingly implicated in the stranger's death. On a lighter note, ``Dendrocacalia'' describes the plight of a bewildered man named Common, who discovers he has turned into a rare plant, placed in a botanical garden. The almost lulling repetitiveness of ``Record of a Transformation'' underscores the senseless brutality of war as, at the height of battle, an executed soldier describes his horrifying experiences among the dead and the living. The beautifully conceived title story describes the actions of a man with amnesia trying to remember his past just ``beyond the curve.'' Abe blends elements of suspense and science fiction to create a form singularly his own. (Apr.)