The Face of Another
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The Face of Another

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  1,295 ratings  ·  79 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 238 pages
Published February 4th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1964)
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It is not surprising that readers, even if they are devout fans of Kōbō Abe, don’t take to The Face of Another in the same manner as The Woman in the Dunes or some of his other novels. It may be because of the uncomfortable feeling a reader gets being stuck in the narrator’s head for an entire novel (much like Camus’ The Stranger). The story is built on the premise of a wife finding her husband’s notebooks which are filled with solipsistic meanderings, repeated excursuses, counter-arguments dire...more
This is by far my favorite of Abe’s novels. Mainly due to the odd tension he is able to sustain through long, often philosophically concerned monologues of a man who, after burning his face, decides to fashion and wear a mask in an effort to locate the social effect of the self and how that self can be split. It kept reminding me of a more universally centered American Psycho, 30 years before Ellis’s, with even more layering of psychological effect and more eerie calm as the narrator continues r...more
Gertrude & Victoria
If Abe Kobo is one of the most important writers in post-war Japan, then The Face of Another is one of its most incisive commentaries on human nature and identity. Brilliantly conceived and meticulously crafted, a work of this magnitude can only be the product of an intellectual with rare creative ability. It is a veritable invention of genius, and nothing less than a philosophical tour de force.

The Japanese title Tanin no Kao is a more apt title for it connotes something stronger than just "of...more
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 philosophiz...more
Chris Shaffer
Oh, the under-appreciated Kobo Abe. His work is always intriguing, especially Women in the Dunes and The Ruined Map, and usually quite compelling, but something about this one had me less than enthusiastic to pick it up. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but it just wasn't the same Abe I have enjoyed so much in his previous novels.

There is plenty of intrigue: a man loses his face in a laboratory accident, constructs a mask to hide the deformity, then, as he plays psychological mind games with him...more
Dessy Priyatna
Suka banget sama novel lama ini, yang berkisah tentang derita seorang lelaki yang wajahnya cacat akibat kecelakaan di laboratorium.
Tokoh "aku", seorang ahli kimia molekuler, wajahnya terbakar hingga rusak parah, yang bersisa di wajahnya hanya jejaring-jejaring daging akibat luka keloid.
Wajah yang merupakan penanda identitas, bagi lelaki ini juga menjadi sangat begitu pentingnya. Setelah tak lagi mempunyai wajah ia begitu menderita, terasing, bahkan sang istri pun berkhianat hingga ia harus teru...more
Christopher Roberts
I think this book was brilliantly conceived, the ideas of the notebooks written to his wife, and the entire premise. The writing itself was atrocious though. Abe spends way too much time rambling, less time on the meat of the story and should have explored this story in different ways. This is my second book by Abe, and the first was compelling enough to make me pick up this one after not being completely won over by the first. This one is going to turn me off of reading him in the future though...more
If you read the blurb on the back of this book, you might be inclined to think it's some kind of gory horror story if you just pick up the key words. But the more important key words are: identity, transformation and social ostracism.
This is definitely a book that explores ideas, which is rare in novels these days. If you're after a thriller, it's best to look elsewhere. You'll get too frustrated with the narrator's ongoing musings that keep interrupting the plot. You have to read it with an at...more
Huge disappointment.

I came across Kobo Abe by way of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s screen adaptation of ‘The Woman in the Dunes,’ as well as ‘Pitfall,’ both of which I regard as masterpieces of Japanese cinema, on par with the films of Kurosawa and the other Japanese greats. This was my first Kobo Abe novel.

The premise is very compelling. Not so the execution. I found the prose so impenetrably dull and repetitive that my trying to stay focused to follow the narrator’s train of thought was quite excrucia...more
If you are into dynamic, leaning on plot books, this one is a late-bloomer. Being nowhere near an atmospheric piece either, the endless musing passages grimly inserted throughout, make it unbearably tedious halfway. After reaching the protagonist's wife's response, Kobo Abe's sense of humour seemed to be by far the sharpest and it almost won me over. Ultimately, the movie recalling part however sensibly thought out, only gave the impression of a wrenched attempt to reclaim the linearity of the b...more
Great book, now it's time to rewatch the movie.

"I have proven that a mask by its very existence is basically destructive. Equivalent to premeditated murder, the mask can stand shoulder to shoulder, with no feeling of inferiority, with arson or banditry. It was not surprising that the mask, which itself was a form of destruction, was not inspired to such crimes as arson and murder, although it was in the act of walking now through the ruins of human relationships destroyed by its existence. Desp...more
Hysteric and full of platitudinous-counter-platitudes that seem juvenile. At certain points in the book, Mr. Abe reveals that he may be aware that of this, but then does not use that awareness to make the narrative more interesting. My favorite part of the novel was the short story told at the very end about a young woman who lost half her face. He stopped telling the story from first person and moved to 3rd, which inevitably curtailed his fever storms and provided a more engaging story.
I guess...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shazwani Shaidan
I bought this book because the idea of facelessness is astonishing. But I find this book a bit dry compared to some other "I-books" that I've read.

However, I think Kobo Abe really investigate this topic really well. He ventured that people will always want to see how you look like before they look underneath the face and how some people are afraid of unable to relate what you don't understand, like looking at a burned face without knowing what expression that he/she is using.

The idea of masks...more
Kate Sherrod
I experienced this story first several years ago via the film adaptation by the great Hiroshi Teshigahara.

So, one of the things that interests me is the tandem experience of book and film; the film really explores the idea -- a man's face is destroyed in an accident and he creates (or, in the film, has created) a mask so lifelike almost nobody realizes it's a mask at all, only to find that instead of restoring him fully to his life and his humanity, it has made him more of a monster than he was...more
Ben Dutton
For his second novel Kobo Abe attempted to deal with larger issues of identity and personality on a national scale, by focussing on one nameless man. In Woman of the Dunes (1962), his first novel, Abe’s prose had a simple elegance, but with The Face of Another (1964) the basic form is much diluted, and complicated by multiple questions. The protagonist of Woman of the Dunes was simply trying to escape; the protagonist of this work is trying to find himself and lose himself, and trying to find a...more
This is one of those books that I read in hopes of becoming enlightened and educated in the process of flicking though each page. 'The Face of Another' details the life of a scientist, left horribly disfigured after an experiment gone wrong. Spending most of his days with his face wrapped tight in bandages, he comes to the realisation that since his accident, both his career and marriage are failing.

He seeks out a man specialising in realistic and prosthetic masks, and uses this 'new face' as a...more
you know, on recently watching the film "The Skin I live In," which came out this year, I was instantly reminded of this book, and also the film based on this book. Similar themes with the horror-surgery-fiction in which a kind of body-transplant takes place (though in Skin, it's the whole body, or at least its surface, which is transplanted, and in The Face of Another, it's just the face), symbolizing the fantasy of being able, or forced, to physically become another person.
I think anyone who f...more
Parrish Lantern
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...more
3. 5 stars (review has spoilers)

I battled with myself on how to rate this. A large part of me felt I should give 4 stars because it is really very good. But it was very scenitific in places and the scientists musings were quite in depth to the point that I don't think I grasped everything he was trying to say, which hindered the enjoyment for me a bit. It also meant that although it was good to read a book that made me think things through, I didn't find it easy to read when I was tired. Therefo...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is a difficult novel to talk about; its main idea is simple - a scientist gets burned by liquid nitrogen and his face becomes ruined so he starts trying to get an artificial one as close as possible to lifelike; in the process he splits his identity in two - the "original" and the "mask" and they start to compete for the affections of his wife of eight years.

However the novel is much, much more than that as a meditation on identity, on what it means to be human, on what visual impressions (...more
David Keffer
The Face of Another (1966) is both a psychological study and an existential allegory. The protagonist is a scientist, "the section head of a respectable laboratory," whose face has been disfigured in a chemical explosion. This disfigurement creates a rift between the scientist and everyone he encounters --particularly his wife. The source of this rift is due less to others' repulsion at his face than to the scientist's self-disgust,
both physically and mentally.

The destruction of his face trigger...more
Harun Harahap
sebenernya agak pegel juga baca ni buku..mungkin seperti orang bilang..terjemahan dari penerbit J***S**** tidak bagus..jadi kalau ingin membaca, saya sih menyarankan untuk membaca edisi inggrisnya saja..atau kalau memang bisa berbahasa jepang, silahkan baca edisi aslinya yang bahasa jepang..

kenapa saya memberi bintang 3..tidak bisa lebih atau kurang..sulit untuk memberikan bintang lebih dari 3 karena saya capek membacanya..tapi tidak bisa memberi bintang kurang dari 3 karena saya yakin dan perc...more
You know when characters are stupid and annoying, and you tend to bring the author to account, disregard the book and think little of it? But when the author himself humiliates his characters, you suddenly praise the book because you know that the characters were meant to be like this and it's not that they were badly created. That's kinda how this was. I was one step away from disposing of the book and I don't know how I made it to the end, but I'm glad I did because there was THE WIFE who save...more
Marc Kozak
The only book I've ever started and not finished was The Story of the Eye, which I didn't know anything about when I started it, and it turned out to be basically disturbing pornography. I usually read a lot about the books I'm about to read, so I at least I know what I'm getting in to for the most part.

When reading about The Face of Another, I heard a lot of Kafka comparisons, and the basic idea sounded intriguing enough. But 70 pages in, and I just can't go on. I'm starting to skim over parag...more
Sophie Baudelaire
The story is so fascinating at the beginning; the long interrogation on the question of identity, self, and the reflection of our inner-selves through the face, make the reading a thrilling philosophic-intellectual enterprise. One can be the silent-witness at the fragmentation of the individual, at the fabrication of a new character, everything through the slow rhythm of the narrative. Unfortunately, the book is ruined by its endless lament... The protagonist is too narcissistic, over-thinks sit...more
Gerald Kinro
An accident in a chemical lab has left our narrator hideously scarred and deformed—he has lost his face, and is all alone. He repulses all, even his wife who refuses sex with him. He discovers a solution, however. It is to construct a mask so perfect that no one can tell. He keeps it a secret and silently enters the world. He seduces his wife, and has some results he does not expect.

The thematic points are very strong in this story, for in Japan, the loss of once face is the ultimate disaster....more
Patricia Lucido
"Perhaps the act of writing is necessary only when nothing happens."
This book is horrifying. And it's not the kind of horrifying that uses supernatural beings, creaking floors, old houses, and the like. This book uses the human soul, and when a book does that to me I would most likely call that book as "utterly amazing."
Sure, The Face of Another, is like Kafka's Metamorphosis on a more extreme, human level, but nonetheless this book bore me to some extent. It could use a little less of the narra...more
Simone Perren
This book is a Japanese classic by Kobo Abe who expresses the need for 'masks' in an eloquent and poignant way. His explanation and understanding of how a person's mask comes across to others and is perceived by themselves is very thought-provoking. Quite a difficult read in terms of the language in places as the book is essentially an extended essay of feelings and emotions. Overall, I liked it.
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Kōbō Abe, pseudonym of Kimifusa Abe, was a Japanese writer, playwright, photographer and inventor.

He was the son of a doctor and studied medicine at Tokyo University. He never practised however, giving it up to join a literary group that aimed to apply surrealist techniques to Marxist ideology.

Abe has been often compared to Franz Kafka and Alberto Moravia for his surreal, often nightmarish explor...more
More about Kōbō Abe...
The Woman in the Dunes The Box Man The Ruined Map Secret Rendezvous Kangaroo Notebook

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“Still, the one who best understands the significance of light is not the electrician, not the painter, not the photographer, but the man who lost his sight in adulthood. There must be the wisdom of deficiency in deficiency, just as there is the wisdom of plenty in plenty.” 18 likes
“You don't need me. What you really need is a mirror. Because any stranger is for you simply a mirror in which to reflect yourself. I don't ever again want to return to such a desert of mirrors.” 11 likes
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