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Secret Rendezvous

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  1,317 ratings  ·  137 reviews
From the acclaimed author of Woman in the Dunes comes Secret Rendezvous, the bizarrely erotic and comic adventures of a man searching for his missing wife in a mysteriously vast underground hospital.

From the moment that an ambulance appears in the middle of the night to take his wife, who protests that she is perfectly healthy, her bewildered husband realizes that things a
Paperback, 179 pages
Published July 9th 2002 by Vintage (first published 1977)
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Average rating 3.58  · 
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 ·  1,317 ratings  ·  137 reviews

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Nate D
Oct 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: doctors make the best patients, patients make the best doctors
Recommended to Nate D by: black ambulances arriving in the dead of night
The back blurb describes this as satire. I sincerely hope that nothing in the Japanese medical system can actually be appropriately satirized in this form, because this book is horrifying. Secret Rendezvous is an unending psychosexual medical nightmare. It certainly possesses its absurdity, but it's that grinning death-mask absurdity that you don't want to meet on a dark night. The images, the deranged philosophizing, the very idea of getting trapped in such an endless hospitalized underworld. I ...more
Oct 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan
How could I not like this? Kafka check. Beckett check. Burroughs check. And that easy going Japanese narrator later associated with Murakami... check. Oh, and of course being himself check too.

I generally don't love books with huge libidos. All the masturbating and measuring of penises might've turned me off in another book. What can I say? I'm modest, maybe repressed, who knows? But this book seemed not to be so much about sex as the defamiliarization of sex in a modern bureaucratized, science-
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: somewhere-else, 2019
The boundary between the hospital and the outside world isn't as firm as you think it is.
Kōbō Abe seems like he was probably an interesting person. I picture him sweaty and anxious, hunched over his typewriter in the throes of yet another paranoid fever dream. His perception is so sharp it causes deep pain. He hammers out figurative language that is both visceral and poetic:
An unpleasant, clammy sensation oozed from his pores, as though he were a sponge being trampled underfoot. His hopes
Geoffrey Waring
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
As bizarre a book as I can imagine, but somewhere in the middle I started to find it gripping. When they call stories dreamlike, people are usually referring to bizarre imagery or an ethereal atmosphere; Secret Rendezvous is dreamlike in a more literal sense, as it requires you to surrender logic to its own universe of signs and impressions. This can be hard to do. In the end, rather than a satire of the medical system (which is what the book's cover advertised), it seems to rather be a nightmar ...more
Interesting mix of dark and absurd. After reading it, I started enjoying more of its dream-like world, but while reading, it wasn't a very enjoyable experience. The style of narration forces us to try our best to reconstruct what really happened, but at the same time the absurdity level keeps going up. It does have the quality of being "shocking" and it might have worked better 40 years ago, but contemporary readers won't be too impressed by craziness or weird sex... and there wasn't much more. ...more
Feb 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
It warrants all of the "Kafka-esque" descriptions it gets. Unlike Kafka's characters, who never grasp the machinations of their world, the nameless main character of this book, at times, gets hip to the absurdity. As he does, however, he becomes deeper entrenched in the labyrinth sex research hospital, until his initial goals of finding his wife and returning home to normalcy become completely lost. The ending is still confusing me. It's lucidly rendered and absolutely disturbing. ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is often compared with The Trial by Kafka, and like that book, I'd say that this one is strange, messy, and brilliant, weaving a tapestry of complex and sometimes perplexing themes around a simple enough premise - a man navigating a labyrinthine hospital in search of his wife who was taken there by two EMTs in the middle of the night. There's a noir vibe to the investigative aspect, and the book definitely shares some DNA with Cronenberg's Videodrome with its body horror element and pr ...more
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was inspired to read Secret Rendezvous by Joachim Boaz of the blog Science Fiction Ruminations (here). I'd purchased the major seven Abe novels off a pal from Letterboxd about two years ago but hadn't got around to them. I'm glad I did, though, as this novel was a laugh riot. The narrator, unnamed of course, watches helplessly as an ambulance shows up to his house and takes away his wife, despite her being in good health and despite neither of them phoning for medical assistance. He hopes to t ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think this is one of the better Abe books that I've read, but I still prefer Woman in the Dunes and Kangaroo Notebook. Maybe even The Box Man. It hangs together better than some, but I'm not necessarily as interested in where it goes. Better than some, worse than others. Or, maybe it just didn't strike me as much. ...more
Lance Ward
A really surreal read. A mix of the film Brazil and a detective film with a healthy sprinkling of eroticism. I was compelled to keep reading wanting to find out the answer to the mystery, even when situations would become rather strange or unsettling. The end however (no spoilers) is cryptic but given some time to ponder on it some greater conclusions may be able to be drawn from it.
Jun 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: yum
i read this because the theater company i was working with was adapting it for a show. i'd never heard of Kobo Abe, but we all read a number of his works in preperation for this piece and i'm really glad i was introduced to his work. i haven't read Woman in the Dunes which is his most famous, but i have to say i was really drawn into Secret Rendezvous. it's incredibly bizarre and i always wonder with the Weirdness of east asain art - and Japanese art and culture in specific - how much of my imco ...more
Gertrude & Victoria
Jan 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-library
I found this work to be even stranger than his Kangaroo Notebook. With Kangaroo Notebook, the reader can easily distinguish the hellish underworld from the realness of the world above, at least to a sufficient degree. On the other hand, Secret Rendezvous merges the real with fantastical and farcical elements in such a way that leaves the reader perplexed. The former is fully bathed in absurdity, while the latter is only wet up to the waist.

The first scene begins with a bizarre occurrence, when a
Aug 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: plumbers of creepy subconcious desires
Shelves: fiction
Here the Hospital is the cite of Abe's existential mayhem--nary a chapter goes by where someone isn't watching someone else do it with themselves, an animal, or one or more other human beings. That this is a novel about sex and sexual deviancy and that takes place (increasingly hellishly) within the power structure of a hospital tremendously foregrounds the repercussions of treating desire as a strictly physical phenomena that must be treated systematically. Anyway, while one senses that a lot o ...more
Apr 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
I think it is a wonderful concept and a great effort but really taps into some deep surreal themes very matter-of-factly which creates more confusion than closure. We're lead on a wild goose chase looking for a man's missing wife in a hospital whose director is a man who is also a horse - during his search the husband becomes head of security. There are many erect penises, sexual experiments and an orgasm contest for entertainment but the back of the book review says it is a mix of Hironymous Bo ...more
Bianca S.
Oct 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Intrigued by the cover--I grabbed this book right up and off of a dusty shelf in a used book store. On a whim, I do things like this sometimes. I didn't even read a darned page in the thing, I was just intrigued by the cover. I shoved my ten dollar bill towards the teller and on my way I went. I don't know why I did it but I'm glad I did. This one kept me company on many a long train rides to and from my home and my homehome for a short while and is probably one of my favourite novels and a damn ...more
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was ok

Wow, Within the past two weeks I’ve dnf ‘d two audiobooks, and gave a three to one. Books haven’t proved much better, I gave a 2 to Catchers in the Rye and now Secret Rendezvous is a dog. Having terrible luck.

SR is a convoluted, perverse story. Every Abe book is completely different except for his insanely inventive imagination. I LOVED The Woman in the Dunes, every word was captivating, the story mind blowing. I enjoyed The Box Man, but I didn’t connect with The Face of Another and SR just
Apr 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
5/5 stars for writing, but 3/5 stars for abundance of sexual deviance (a theme I generally find pretty boring, with no exception here). Looking beyond the sexual themes, I really enjoyed this book and found the pacing swift and engrossing. As a thriller, there is an excellent execution of information being revealed that then opens up new mysteries. I trusted that all would be known, in time, and went along for the ride. This is my first time reading Abe, and I will definitely read him again, hop ...more
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
After falling in love with the Abe/Teshigahara film collaborations I was very eager to read some Abe. I think this was the wrong book with which to start. Disappointing to say the least. The only truly interesting construct, the tape-listening room, was sorely underused. Kafka/Brecht-isms aside, I found the book so vague and ungrounded, the protagonist a blank slate with seemingly nothing truly at stake, and the most boring sex torture/liberation hospital(!)imaginable. . Perhaps I missed the gra ...more
May 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The story sounds straightforward enough - missing wife, husband following clues to find her. However being a Kobo Abe book it was never going to be that simple. The narrative swaps from 1st to 3rd person and back again, everyone is holding something back and the story keeps jumping forward and back. Most of the characters are extremely odd, complex and interesting. The story is very gripping and weird.
Stephen Douglas Rowland
Aug 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
This absolutely has to be the strangest novel I have ever read. How on earth Abe generated these ideas and had the gall to put them down on paper is beyond me. We have a shoe salesman searching for his missing wife in a labyrinth of hospital, a horse-man with two penises, a woman who turns into a quilt, an adolescent nymphomaniac whose bones are melting, and it's all wrapped up with a chilling denouement. I'm pretty flabbergasted at the moment. ...more
Chris M
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Like if Kafka wrote a sex comedy. This book is perverted and tense, but made me laugh. I don’t get it. The book is filled with erections, admiration of women’s legs and armpits, people dying of surreal diseases, and a half-horse man. My complaint: it is a bit too plotless at times, and amidst all the strangeness it can get bogged down in describing a wall or desk. But I really enjoyed it because I enjoy weird things.
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This Kafkaesque tale of a former model-turned-salesman searching for his missing wife at a hospital to which she may or may not have been transported by an unexpected ambulance has all the makings of something I'd like: satirical commentary on bureaucracy, subversive use of sexual imagery, a story-within-a-story structure. And yet, it never came together for me. I can see Terry Gilliam or Tim Burton making this into a strangely beautiful movie but as a piece of literature, it simply never gels. ...more
Tom Buchanan
May 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I liked parts of this. The parodies of hospitalization and medical fear were compelling, funny, scary. But it falls back on this trope of using women's bodies and sexuality as a device for body horror in a very problematic and brain-dead way. Basically the Harlan Ellison problem. So fuck that, but I would still be up for reading the Ruined Map or Box Man, I think. ...more
Jayden gonzalez
Dec 01, 2012 rated it liked it
*waiting in the dmv, its taking a while* "Hmm. How...kafkaesque." ...more
Adam P
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
His best book in my opinion. Very funny and scary...
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's like walking through a hospital-themed Hieronymus Bosch painting with not-quite "found notebooks" as a Visitor's Guide.

May 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
I watched Woman of the Dunes because Tarkovsky thought highly of it. Years later, I saw the book in my local used bookstore and picked it up. It's stayed with me over the years and I've even recommended it to several people, not something I do often.

When coronavirus hit, I ordered a few books and remembering how much I enjoyed Woman of the Dunes, put Abe on the list.

If you're like me, maybe you expect some of the same brilliance of his most well known work. You won't be disappointed with Secret
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I like a good mindfuck every once in a while and the Japanese (Abe, Murakami, Yoshimoto) know how to deliver the goods.

I hear Lynchian thrown around a lot (and sometimes Murakamiesque) but Abeian/Abesque/whatever rarely does. And it should because, with a dream-like plot revolving around a labyrinthine, underground hospital that deftly serves as a satirization of any country's medical beauracrasy, Secret Rendezvous works wonders: weird, magical, head-scratching wonders.
Jeanne Thornton
Feb 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an extremely hard book to rate in a constructive way! On one level of course it is totally counterproductively gross and disgusting, with every single character (except, I think, the old security guard in the first chapter, the sweatpants karate assassins, and arguably the woman who always has to go to the bathroom so she has a special chair) horrendously sexualized. On one level I get what Abe is doing--I mean there is a character who has a dead torso and legs grafted to him in order to ...more
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was the first book of Mr. Abe that I've ever read and it never failed to expose the unique weirdness of the story's concepts. In a simple yet seemingly bland narrative and potent frankness on medical practices, the story's absurdity, for me can both symbolize and criticize anything in reality.

In a symbolic way, you can interpret the labyrinthine hospital as a future world, a world where somebody supplies and shares someone of sensual affection. The man portrayed on the story was initially
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Kōbō Abe (安部 公房 Abe Kōbō), 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

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