My translation of the Abe Kobo classic, The Box Man (excerpt 3)

July 26, 2011

One day, a box man came to live directly beneath A’s apartment window. No matter how much he tried not to, A could not help but look at it. However much he tried to ignore it, he found himself constantly aware of its presence. The first feelings to confront A were those of irritation and confusion one would feel if his territory was illegally infringed upon, and of disgust and anger towards an intruding foreign body. But for the time being he decided to remain silent and wait it out. Anyway some neighbourhood busybody would probably start nagging about the rubbish disposal, or something or other, and sooner or later something would get done about it. However, he waited and waited but there was no sign that anyone was going to make a move. Not knowing what to do A pleaded to the apartment caretaker, but this too was to no avail. The box man could only be seen from A’s room, and there was no way that those who did not have to look at it would go out of their way to do something about it. Everyone wanted to turn a blind eye wherever possible.

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2 Responses to “My translation of the Abe Kobo classic, The Box Man (excerpt 3)”

  1. hypodemicnoodle Says:

    Mate I’m starting to remember this story now. I read it when i was a teenager and although it was somehow fun and bizarre I couldn’t relate that much to what was going on compared to other let’s say “weird existentialist scenarios”. I just couldn’t answer the question satisfactorily: why do box men go into their boxes in the first place? Is there something about Japan which I’m missing?

    As for the translation it flows, well done.

  2. nikzback Says:

    Thanks for the comment, I really should have finished reading the book before I started translating the excerpts, but I wanted to get started. My instinctive feeling is that it has something to do with existing in society but being unseen. It’s a common theme in Japanese culture – feeling no connection to the world and people around you. You are part of the team, but you don’t exist as an individual. In post-war Japan there were many business men beavering away to rebuild their country and their companies. They often lived in tiny, box like rooms in massive apartment blocks away from their families. A kind of sociological critique perhaps. I will read on and see what happens, my idea is probably miles off.


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