Drew's Reviews > The Ruined Map

The Ruined Map by Kōbō Abe
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's review
Dec 16, 12

bookshelves: japanese-lit
Read from December 10 to 16, 2012

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 supposed to be examples of Great Prose...only competent, just interesting enough to keep you reading:

"If I believed her literally--or the words she spoke to herself--within these thirty some paces an unreasonable and unforeseen event had lain in wait for him. And as a result of it he had not only disregarded the appointment at S---- station, but had boldly and irreversibly stepped across a chasm, turning his back on the world." (Interesting that the private eye seems to consider the subject's reappearance impossible, right from the beginning)

"Although it was dead winter a huge green bottlefly, slipping and sliding, was buzzing as it tried to crawl up the shade over the electric light; it kept circling around but there was no need to worry: flies know the seasons better than humans, and their wisdom is great."

And from toward the end of the book, where the prose gets a little more muddled and abstract (in a good way, if one has the patience):

"If I could get them to take her at my wife's place, the membrane between the frog's toes would be even more beautiful--like purple rubber. What was broken? What was left? Again the usual face appeared in the veneer ceiling printed with the straight-grain cypress wood . . . a laughing moon . . . why was the dream I had a couple of times a year, where I was pursued by a laughing full moon, so frightening? It was still a puzzle I could not understand no matter how I racked my brains." (This is the only place in the book that the laughing moon dream is mentioned)

And from only a few pages later, opening up a chapter:

"I could only assume someone was watching me."

So Abe does a good job of making this plot believable--you can see the narrator's gradual descent into paranoia and, ultimately, incoherence, whereas Auster gives us nothing of the sort--while providing us with some interesting scenery along the way. But seeing as it elicited from me nothing more than a shrug, I can't in good conscience recommend it to anyone.

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message 1: by Megha (new)

Megha Have you decided yet which mega-novel you'll be picking up next?

Drew Tentatively, Against the Day. I'm still sort of on the fence, so further words could sway me, I suppose. Current plan is AtD and possibly Omega Minor as well over the next two months, then Women and Men in February or so.

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