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The Ruined Map: A Novel

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  977 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Of all the great Japanese novelists, Kobe Abe was indubitably the most versatile. With The Ruined Map, he crafted a mesmerizing literary crime novel that combines the narrative suspense of Chandler with the psychological depth of Dostoevsky.

Mr. Nemuro, a respected salesman, disappeared over half a year ago, but only now does his alluring yet alcoholic wife hire a private e
ebook, 304 pages
Published December 14th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1967)
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All I can really say about this one is that it's like City of Glass, but more substantial and textured. Which is to say, the plots of the two are nearly the same--possibly incompetent private eye investigates what may be a crime, but the case is set aside in favor of an identity crisis for the narrator. The difference is that Abe at least has some good old-fashioned prose style, whereas Auster lacks in that area (as far as I can tell), among others.

A few examples, and again, these aren't suppose
May 25, 2009 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: Rough Guide to Cult Fiction
Shelves: cult-fiction
For me, the highlights of The Box Man had to do with the level of weirdness combined with a comment on identity and dropping-out of society. These themes come up often in the films I have seen based on Abe novels as well (Woman in the Dunes, Face of Another) Unfortunately, The Ruined Map is quite lacking in every way.

This time Abe presents us with a fairly straightforward mystery. There are a couple of diversions into bizarre Japanese underworld territories, but overall these didn't really captu
I seem to be picking pretty disorienting books lately. I have always wanted to read Abe and this was my first pick. On the surface, the story seems simple enough. A beautiful, enigmatic, alcoholic woman hires a private detective who is also the narrator, to find her missing husband. With a lack of concrete clues and unreliable witnesses, and aided only by a "ruined map" the narrator begins his investigation. But soon, facing an existential crisis, the narrator begins to question his identity and ...more
Jan 12, 2008 Andy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: new wave movie fans
Shelves: kool-imports
If you like Michaelangelo Antonioni movies you'll love Abe. Just like Antonioni he plays with issues of lost identity in the modern world. I also recommend "The Face of Another". Abe deserves a much wider audience.
Geoffrey Waring
"But supposing, as with the town on the plateau, every face which I should know were to change into unknown strangers, what then?"

Murakami likes jazz; Murakami likes Kobo Abe. Kobo Abe is Murakami played by a hard bop musician on heroin. While I often need to be patient and be willing to feel lost awhile when reading an Abe novel, it always pays off in the impressionistic emotion and atmosphere he is able to deliver, and the Ruined Map was no different. A hard boiled noir detective story where t
Yehia Nasser
Once she glanced over toward me, but she could probably make out nothing in this narrow, dark crevice. I continued to conceal myself as I watched her. She looked up worriedly at the sky, searching. I continued to wait intently, choking back my screams behind clenched teeth. Nothing would be served by being found. What I needed now was a world I myself had chosen. It had to be my own world, which I had chosen by my own free will. She searched; I hid. At length she began walking slowly away as if ...more
Parrish Lantern
The Ruined Map is a novel about an unnamed detective, hired by an enigmatically beautiful woman. She sets him the task of finding clues that would explain the disappearance of her husband. The only real guides he has are a map (a ruined one), that should point him in the right direction or at least suggest the existence of one, but turns out to be more of a metaphor, than a reference point; a phone number and a box of matches, which create more confusion than enlightenment.

Right from the start t
Michelle L
Less than a third into the book, I realized from the outset that: a)we were not in the quotidien world we know, and b)the author was making no accommodation to the hard time any reader was going to have negotiating the 'map' of the storyline and characters. This pleased me at first - it reminded me of James Dickey's "Deliverance", and how the map in that opening foreshadowed the dreadful resistance the characters were going to get from the land into which they were planning (as they thought) the ...more
David Keffer
One of most inviting aspects to reading The Ruined Map (1966) is that it is, essentially, a mystery novel. There is a desire harbored in the heart of every devotee of contemporary literature who began life as a fan of genre fiction, be it mystery, western, or science fiction; and that is to see an established literary master direct his skills to one's beloved genre, to enrich and redeem it with a creation that is elegant, thoughtful, and most of all, literary. The Ruined Map satisfies this cravi ...more
Oct 20, 2007 Antiabecedarian rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: not map-makers
Shelves: perplexed, pretty
It is a book I read because I am still haunted by Woman in the Dunes... and don't like to re-read books even though sometimes a type of writer makes me salivate with cravings, like for a hamburger from Sugar Park Tavern, or macaroni and cheese, or ice cream, or more often tastes for whisky, which I view as a medicinal remedy, a preparation for the next hour... so I read The Ruined Map in preparation for the next hour... I liked the concept, but could not follow... not that I could even follow th ...more
I read Kobo Abe's "The Ruined Map" in Russian translation, so some of my comments below may or may not find relevance in any English translations.

Something intrinsic to Kobe Abe's writing is a deep-rooted undercurrent of psychological weight that seems to hang on for an indefinite time after finishing any of his works. Having read this a little over a year ago, I can still recall fairly easily the discomfort and a sort of quiet anxiety when reading "The Ruined Map".

I noticed that a few readers r
Stephen Butt Butt
I really hate the term 'mindfuck,' but that is precisely what this novel is, the fourth I've read by Abe. It is deeply challenging and dense, commanding your complete attention to every word. What is most stunning is Abe's ability to create a nearly perpetual ambiguity with a frustrating overabundance of details. I read this because 1) I love Abe, and 2) I saw Teshigahara's film version and was trying to comprehend it. Mysteries still remain, but for some reason I feel satisfied.
Tazar Oo
ျဖတသြားျဖတလာ အေရအတြကက အရငရွိေနတာထက အံအားသငစရာေကာငးေလာကေအာင ပိုမားလာတယ။ ေစးယထြကရာက ျပနလာတဲ မိနးမေတြခညးမဟုတဘူး၊ အလုပက အိမျပနလာတဲ ေယာကားေတြလညး ပါတယ။ လိုငးကားတစစီး မွတတိုငငလာတာ ျဖစခငျဖစမွာ။ သူတိုကို ကၽြနေတာ ငံုၾကညေနရငးမွာပဲ၊ လူဆိုတာ လမးေလွာကေနတဲ တိရိစ ၦနေတြပဲလို ေကာငးေကာငး သေဘာေပါကလာတယ။ လမးေလွာကတယဆိုတာထက ဒီသတၱါေတြဟာ ကလီစာေတြထညထုပထားတဲ သူတို အေရျပားအိတႀကီးေတြကို ပငပနးတႀကီး ဒရြတတိုကဆြဲၿပီး ေျမဆြဲအားကို တြနးလွနေနရတာပဲဆိုတဲ ခံစားခကမဳိး ကၽြနေတာမွာငလာတယလို ေျပာရင ပိုမွနမယ။ တခဳိက သူတို ထြကလာတဲ အရပဆီကို ျပန ...more
Nov 08, 2008 Matthew rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: self-important existencialists
Shelves: japan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is my fifth Abe book. Generally I'm intrigued with his books which have a very surreal feel to them.

The Ruined Map starts off in a standard pulp crime novel format. Anything but surreal. Not being a real fan of the genre, I was sceptical. Not my Abe. On the other hand it was quite readable so I continued.

The unnamed detective searching for a missing husband slowly wanders ever deeper into a labyrinthine, darkened world where he loses more and more confidence in himself and the world aroun
Apr 01, 2010 Juha rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of 1960s Japanese avant-garde noir.
The blurb on the back cover of my Tuttle edition says it all: "Told in the form, and with the suspense of a mystery novel, The Ruined Map is a melodrama of the mind." Except for the suspense part. I found it to be a tedious read. I had started it a couple of years ago when I bought the book, but then I couldn't get very far. I started it again recently and forced myself through the entire book. It's not that it's a bad book; in fact it does have some interesting aspects and parts of it were a go ...more
Michael Scott
The Ruined Map is a tough call. As a labyrinthine mystery book, the book presents the job of a private detective looking for a woman's lost husband; here, Kobo Abe demonstrates his ability to write well yet another genre of books. As a carrier of the internal anguish of the modern man, this same book becomes often impenetrable; here, the author has failed to make his language fully comprehensible. To conclude, an interesting but difficult read.
I won't pretend that great swathes of this didn't move swiftly into and out of consciousness, or that I wasn't bored and totally adrift for entire sections. I had intended to give this 3 stars and call it a day, but Abe makes it so easy to read even the most redundant/superfluous sentences and the narrative/narrator's logic is so odd that it wasn't much of a chore to get through the whole thing. Of course there is a Twilight Zone ending. Of course there is. But it redeems (or at rate justifies) ...more
This is not a book for those that want the story's ending to have anything to do with the story. The Ruined Map is more or less an exercise in the construction and deconstruction of identity. The thing is, if a reader knows that and can accept that, the story, the writing, and the pace of this novel are all brilliant. Abe's descriptions are haunting, his fixations on repeating events of no importance are provoking, and what he does in the end--not just to his main character, but to his reader--i ...more
I have yet to read a Japanese novel that is not at least somewhat bizarre and oblique. This one starts with a conventional idea -a private detective is hired by a woman to find her missing husband - but reads almost more like a surreal fantasy than a noir. The prose is spare and hallucinatory, and I admit I found it very hard to understand what was going on.
Dead John Williams
This starts off as a detective novel, albeit Japanese, peppered with the odd observations along the lines of: “he had the neck of one who was untrustworthy”. Somewhere along the way it becomes something else entirely and it is that journey that held me the whole time.

The flow is something I have encountered before in Japanese novels, it is like you have missed a page or a whole chapter. You are reading and suddenly you realise that the flow has substantially altered but you don’t know where so y
maybe its the translation, but for some reason this book felt like a chore the whole time i was reading it. which is too bad, cause i really dug woman in the dunes. maybe someone disagrees with me? vent, i'm looking in your direction..
This book was a delightful bit of déjà vu, written in such a way as to bring the angst of the protagonist to the reader. If you've ever had a bought of existential angst, this book will feel oh so familiar.
Lee Thompson
An interesting translation and fun story. I especially liked the ending, which, for me, can make or break an entire story's spell.
Well written but I didn't find it as interesting as other works by him.
I rarely give a book such a low rating. I am pretty open to all books. I was especially disappointed with this book because I rather enjoyed the woman of the dunes, by the same author. This book was confusing and hazy. An investigation of a disappeared husband with strange characters that are impossible to read via the descriptions in the book. The book becomes more confusing and the characters less pronounced the more you read on. The ending of the book reminds me of the movie memento in that a ...more
Patrick McCoy
I hadn't read a novel by Kobo Abe before, but was intrigued by the cover of the Vintage International Edition of The Ruined Map. And when I read the back it piqued my interest: "In Ruined Map, Kobo Abe fashioned a literary crime novel that combines the narrative suspense of Chandler with the surreal imagery of Kafka and the psychological acuity of Dostoevsky."

I'm finding that I have trouble appreciating surrealism these days (see my bafflement with Buenel films). I found it interesting, but inex

J-Lit Binge #12: Kobo Abe's The Ruined Map

In his characteristic postmodernist tendencies, he fuses literary fiction with detective fiction like Paul Auster but MUCH better. It's a story about a detective agent investigating a case of a missing husband. He discovers clues, follows them, and digs deeper, only to lost them all in the end.

The first fifty pages or so is a little slow, but it picks up speed and the story is engaging till the very end.

But the ending.

Oh, the ending.

It's frustrati
I’ll admit it. I was a little distracted while reading the ending of this book. I read the last 20-30 pages on a plane while a baby was screaming bloody murder. Yes, I had my head phones on and yes, I had trouble following the book. Under normal circumstances, a quiet room with a cup of tea, I don’t think I would have understood the book either. It moves in and out of focus for me. There was a lot in it about sexuality and the blurring of female/male relationships and aesthetic. In fact, that wa ...more
Oct 15, 2009 Jeff rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeff by: John Gardner via *The Art of Fiction*
I can't write much more about this book than i wrote for my first status update, which was something along the lines of "it feels alien" or "feels like it was written by an alien mind."

Maybe "foreign" would be a better word, but that term smacks of ethnocentrism. Then again, "alien" sounds like i'm saying Kobo Abe is not human. Really all i'm getting at is that i felt like an alien trying to inhabit the mind of the narrator and i felt foreign trying to navigate the narrator's world(view).

I wonde
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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 about Kōbō Abe...

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“And again, the dark street. The dark, dark street. The women out shopping for the evening meal of course, and baby carriage and the silver bicycle were already painted out by the darkness; most of the commuters too were already in place in their filing-drawer houses. A half-forsaken chasm of time .... ” 3 likes
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