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The Ruined Map

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  1,899 ratings  ·  172 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
Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 4th 2001 by Vintage (first published 1967)
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Average rating 3.51  · 
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 ·  1,899 ratings  ·  172 reviews

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Nate D
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: housing estates and development wastelands
Urban malaise. Noir. Fragmented experience. Anonymity of crowds to the point of obliteration. Dislocation within a manufactured landscape. Dislocation within one's own life and experiences in a postmodern world. Surfaces / underworlds.

This is Abe's novel of the City. Even when his adherence to and rejection of seeming plot mechanics appear at odds, the gestalt holds this together beautifully.
Jack Tripper
I've never read a novel so overly descriptive yet vague at the same time. The nameless private eye would spend paragraphs describing the angle of an object in relation to the rest of the room, and yet I didn't have much of a grasp on what was going on half the time. I know that's partially the intent here, to leave the reader disoriented, but I was never able to fully become absorbed into the story, as often there was nothing substantial for me to latch onto, and sometimes no transition from one ...more
May 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: japanese-lit
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
Mrs. Europaea
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
The Ruined Map starts with the introduction of a detective hired by the wife of a man that has been missing for 6 months. What begins as a traditional investigation becomes complex as the protagonist, the detective, is met with ambiguity and deceit along the way that acts as a means to purposefully obscure his ability to solve the mystery of the missing husband.

At first this book frustrated me with its vague and uncertain details and dialogues. It was impossible to get a straight honest answer
David Keffer
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kobo-abe
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 12, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Nov 08, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: self-important existencialists
Shelves: japan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"When you're driving, you never want to think of stopping. You want the moment to go on forever just as it is. But when it's over, you shudder at a state like that, with no end. There's a big difference between driving and thinking about driving." ...more
Oct 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan
The Ruined Map was somewhat fun and a joy to read. It was my fourth Kobo Abe book. After reading the Woman in the Dunes, the Box Man, and Secret Rendezvous, I lost hope and any interest in Abe’s work. I hated the absurdity of his writings and his erotic obsessions. I had no expectations whatsoever in the Ruined Man. But I was wrong. This turned out to be a fairly interesting and an addictive detective novel that is, for most part, rooted in reality. Almost as if written by someone else altogethe ...more
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos) In Lockdown
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
Michelle L
Aug 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Mar 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jun 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
Jun 17, 2007 rated it it was ok
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.. ...more
May 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
So I picked up this book because it promised to be a mix of Kafka and Chandler. Kafka yes, Chandler no. I have no idea what happened in this book, but I could tell it had a lot more to do with how we perceive our place in a modern anonymous city than finding a missing husband.
Apr 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Well written but I didn't find it as interesting as other works by him. ...more
Apr 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: academic-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Oct 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Geoffrey Waring
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
"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
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ugh finally done with this.

Technically this could be described as a Japanese crime/mystery, but without any sense of suspense or urgency. In case you were wondering, a mystery without suspense makes for a huge waste of times and a lot of boredom. Since the Japanese are generally a very stoic, calm culture I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that their perspective on crime would be similarly measured and controlled, but I wish I'd made that connection before starting (and thus, having to fin
Jan 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: shadow-man
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
Stephen Douglas Rowland
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. ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kōbō Abe i9s one of the most interesting Japanese novelists of he 20th century. His Ruined Map is ostensibly a mystery of a missing person. The private investigator charged with finding the husband of a young woman who has unaccountably vanished has few clues to work with, mostly consisting of a book of matches from a local cafe.

Not discouraged, the investigator (who is never named ... only a couple of minor characters are given names) keeps plugging on, with help from the brother-in-law of the
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
reminds me a lot of the new york trilogy by Auster: investigator slowly becoming the person he is looking for.

There is some cool repeated imagery throughout the whole novel: the matches, black oil seeping onto things, gross fingernails etc. that really tie the work together. I enjoyed the style.
Grig O'
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
kafka meets hard-boiled noir, how can you go wrong? I am a fan of the films based on Abe's books, especially Woman in the Dunes, but this is his first novel that I read.

the writing style is more than a bit strange, and I'm not sure how much of it is Abe, vs the translation. Take sentences like "The curtain rose, in this dimly lit vestibule, on my somber functions." - clumsy wordings like this are common, but they can turn out oddly poetic.

the book itself is a blast. The feverish, nonlinear, idio
Jan 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, japan, 20th-century
All I can really say after reading any Kobo Abe book is........huh?
A Japanese detective is looking for a missing person. To do so, he tries to get into the mind of the missing. He starts retracing his steps, and starts living the life of his quarry.

Odd, but captivating.
Dead John Williams
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asian, reviewed
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
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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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