Studying The Novel Of Abe Kobo English Literature Essay

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One of the prominent creative minds of the twentieth century, Abe Kobo was among other things an acclaimed writer, photographer and playwright. He was part of the Yoru No Kay Avant-garde movement and worked alongside such famed figures as Hanada Kiyoteru and Okamoto Taro, forming a circle movement which stood at the heart of the leftist intellectual and artistic scene in his contemporary Japan. His novels are seen as poignant statements on the dismal state of society and the individual in the post-World War 2 era, and his characters are invariably understood as shockingly unfortunate "average Joe's" thrown, in one way or another, into an unlikely yet horrifying hell of loneliness, confinement and identity crises. Much scholarship has been dedicated to Abe's literary works, but the resulting interpretations overwhelmingly hinge on banal and simplistic binary oppositions. Some of the most obvious are psychoanalytical interpretations focusing on the relationships between the male leads and female "antagonists"; a typical jumble of castration obsessions and oedipal complexes. Others have seen novels such as The Woman in the Dunes as a political commentary expressing his disillusionment with the Japanese Communist Party of which he had once been a member. Most recently, Christopher Bolton's assessment of Abe reduces his novels to basic dichotomies of Man/woman, face/mask, self/other, science/fantasy and so on, ad nauseam. Even the Bakhtinian interpretation that Bolton proposes in his book does not escape this binarization [1] , this segmentation and this entrapment of Abe's writing. I would like to propose in this paper an alternative reading of three of Abe's novels; The Face of Another, The Woman in the Dune and The Box Man. A reading which, I hope, will not fall into these reductionist traps, and which will do justice to the complex rhizomatic nature of Abe's writing.

I did not discover Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's fantastically twisted world until after I had read the aforementioned novels, and as I progressed through their works, it became clear that their thoughts fit perfectly with Abe's, forming something akin to D&G's desiring machines, like the interconnected parts of a rhizome. D&G praised what they called "minor literature" which, far from being an inferior sort or coming from a minor language, is rather "that which a minority constructs within a major language" [2] . One must note that "minority" here does not necessarily refer to an ethnic group, but rather to anyone operating outside the realm of the "major", the rigid, the coded and "subjectivated". It seems to me that Abe Kobo is a perfect example of a minor writer. Abe stammers and betrays. He uses language in a revolutionary way to say ordinary things, and he uses ordinary language to say revolutionary things. He is a foreigner in his own language. One may see this in his rhythm, in his characters and in his plots. Scholars like Bolton entrap Abe and reduce both the man and his writing: He writes this way because he is Japanese, because he is a man, because he is a science geek, because he is a leftist. All of these are reductive of Abe's stammering. Instead of understanding his work, they interpret it. They attempt to stick Abe's characters, plots, themes, his very thought into preformed boxes and clear cut dichotomies. Conversely, I believe that had Deleuze and Guattari read Abe, they would have said that he is both sand particle and desert. He is sand; he is woman; he is mask. He is imperceptible.

Each novel I will discuss in this paper depicts a story of territoriality and deterritorialization, of multiple becomings, of rhizomatic connections. Abe's characters take the line of flight just as the novels themselves do, with their complex and often downright bizarre and ambiguous structures. Furthermore, these characters also illustrate what Deleuze and Guattari considered the danger of absolute deterritorialization, for although all of Abe's protagonists go through the Deleuzian white wall, they also often fall into the black hole, succumbing to madness, violence, sometimes even murder.

A Few Key Concepts:

The philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari may be approached from a multiplicity of angles, but one may begin with the central concepts of machinic assemblages and the Body without Organs (BwO). D&G assert that everything is a product of stratified machinic assemblages (agencements), which they define as such:

"[…] a multiplicity which is made up of many heterogeneous terms and which establishes liaisons, relations between them, across ages, sexes and reigns, different natures. Thus the assemblages' only unity is that of co-functioning. It is a symbiosis; a sympathy. It is never filiations which are important, but alliances, alloys. These are not successions, lines of descent, but contagions, epidemics, the wind." [3] 

These assemblages therefore create a space for ever-moving flows of intensities. This is indeed quite literal. In A Thousand Plateaus, for example, they explain feudalism as an aggregation of severable assemblages: Man/land, man/horse, man/horse/stirrup, all interconnect create a feudal machine, which in itself connects to a man/woman assemblage to create a new "chivalrous love" assemblage, and so on [4] .

Assemblages and their aggregations form what D&G refer to as a Body without Organs, which is a plane of immanence and consistency of desire, with desire defined as a process of production, rather than lack, or a satisfaction of pleasure [5] . The point for D & G is to make a body without organs through which intensities may fluctuate and pass until there is no longer an "I", nor an "other", only "and's"; only multiplicities. These BwO's constitute a pure multiplicity of immanence in a constant movement of deterritorialization. D & G assert that it is necessary to have assemblages in order to make BwO's, just as it is necessary to have a large abstract machine in order to build the plane of consistency. D&G speak of three important strata, those which confine and bind us most directly. These strata are the organism, signifiance, and subjectivation. The organism limits and dictates the movements of the body, significance forces one to be interpreted, boxed into set acceptable meanings, and subjectivation fixes the subject of enunciation [6] . The body without organ opposes these strata, and proposes instead a "disarticulation" of them [7] . Furthermore, all assemblages are first and foremost desire, since these fluctuating intensities form precisely what desire is. The machinic assemblages impose their territoriality on desire, attempting to take it away from a Spinozan plane of immanence and consistency into well-organized territorialized strata. However, in these very assemblages which territorialize desire, there are always lines of flight and deterritorialization.

This movement from territoriality to deterritorialization permeates all three of Abe's novels. In accordance with the principles of minor literature, Abe's "writing machine" is in itself characterized by a high coefficient of deterritorialization. Indeed, it is difficult to notice the absence of any solid sense of Japaneseness in any of his novels. Contrary to majoritarian authors such as Mishima Yukio, whose writing seems to be a hymn to a so called traditional Japaneseness, Abe the minor writer completely takes his prose away from any traditional sense of identity. Himself deterritorialized throughout his youth, as he spent much time in Manchuria, he infused his works with an inherent translocality. Abe's characters are culturally anonymous, and rarely ever have names. And even though many critics have fallen into the trap of cultural essentialism, seeing his works as an expression of Japanese post-war anxiety, one may instead argue that Abe's lasting international appeal is due precisely to the fact that his novels ask universal questions about Fordist/Post-Fordist urban life and its effect on society.

I mentioned the Deleuzian (literal) concept "writing machine", because not only does Abe have a series of interlocking works which echo each other forming something akin to a rhizome, but even the structure of each novel is a fascinating textual assemblage, forming a coherent whole out of seemingly disjointed schizoid parts. From Deleuze and Guattari's perspective, novels are constituted by lines of articulation (segmentarity, strata, territorialities), on the one hand, and by lines of flight (movements of deterritorialization and destratification) on the other [8] .

Abe's characters write confessions in notebooks, they take pictures, they draw maps, and his novels are riddled with newspaper clippings, drawings, photographs, marginal notes, excursuses and postscripts, all of which combining in a disorganized fashion, taking the very act of writing away from its territoriality, its rigid majoritarian rules, and finding the line of flight, bringing the writer's prose into the world of stammering, of non sense, of minority.

Perhaps more thought should also be given to the concept of territory, as seen through the works of Abe Kobo. Deleuze and Guattari themselves assert that "there is no assemblage without territory, without territoriality and reterritorialization which includes all sorts of artifice" [9] . However, they also argued that "there is no assemblage without a point of deterritorialization, without a line of flight which leads on to new creations, or else towards death" [10] . In order to fully understand the concepts of territoriality and deterritorialization, let us begin with an intrinsically related concept, that of faciality.

Faciality in The Face of Another.

"The face is a tale of horror." [11] 

In a dark, "dead" room in a cheap and anonymous apartment building, the narrator of The Face of Another leaves three notebooks-black, white, and gray-for his wife to read. Part diary, part confession, the notebooks contain a painstakingly detailed and intimate account of the protagonist's horrific ordeal and transformation following a laboratory accident which left him horribly disfigured. Feeling rejected by both his wife and society as a whole, he decides to construct an elaborate and realistic mask in order to recreate a "roadway towards others" [12] . As he progresses with his endeavor, it becomes clear both to the reader and to himself that his main purpose is to seduce his wife under the guise of a complete stranger, thinking at first that this would bridge the gap between them, but ultimately falling into an absurd schizophrenic love triangle in which the new artificial persona of "the mask" takes on a figurative life of its own. While this novel may be read as an allegory of the Japanese national identity crisis and "loss of face" in the wake of World War II, let us consider an alternative avenue.

First, let us begin with the concept of faciality as developed by Deleuze and Guattari in a thousand plateaus. The face for D & G is not a spiritual marker of the human as opposed to the primitive or the beastly, nor is it even culturally universal. It is rather an historical and authoritarian power imposed on western and westernized societies. The face is a machinic assemblage which radically deterritorializes and overcodes the head, and indeed the entire body through a process of "faceification" [13] . It is the product of an authoritarian sociopolitical assemblage which, by putting in conjunction the white wall of significance and the black holes of subjectivation, created an abstract machine of faciality which produces faces "by giving the signifier its white wall, and subjectivity its black hole" [14] . The face is neither animal nor human. It is monstrous, grotesque and somehow sublime. And if mankind were to have a destiny, D&G insist that it would have to be "escaping the face, undoing the face and faciality, becoming imperceptible" [15] . The purpose is not to return to a pre-face, primitive or animal state. D&G propose a much more radical and transgressive alternative. Instead of regression, they propose becomings. Multiple becomings, animal becomings, spiritual becomings, strange becomings which will go through the white wall and come out of the black holes, finally allowing the very traits of faciality to escape the authoritarian organization of the face.

The protagonist in The Face of Another begins his tale of woe with a very sudden and involuntary loss of face. He finds himself in between; in the cracks, neither a part of society nor completely outside of it. He feels forced out of the social assemblage, and even hints at a very Deleuzian conception of social and micropolitical relationships when he sadly notes that "although the people walking along the streets were strangers to each other, they formed a tight chain, like some organic composition, and I could not squeeze in." [16] 

However, although his initial accident destroyed his face, it did not destroy the abstract facial machine. The strength of the subjectivation and signifiance strata were much too strong to be replaced, and it is indeed not easy to undo an absolute deterritorialization and overcoding of one's entire body. Furthermore, while he still lived within society, whose authoritarian machine presupposed and required the organizing power of faciality, it was not possible for him to function without it. His initial conception of the face as a roadway to others is indeed quite true, although, as D&G would argue, the facial machine is more accurately the inhuman prerequisite for human relationships in today's westernized capitalist societies [17] .

In any event, the abstract machine of the face could certainly not be destroyed by a simple laboratory accident. The result was the protagonist's desire to replace the face that he lost, to create another white wall with black holes which truly is just as artificial as the one destroyed by the accident. From there begins a very literal reenactment of Deleuze and Guattari's process of faceification. As the protagonist goes through the painstakingly technical process of building his mask, he even sees it as a white surface, comparing it to "a map of some unknown foreign land" [18] . Eventually, however, this new "re-deterritorialization" of the body carried within it the temptation of the line of flight. As the protagonist saw the possibility of faceless living, and in spite of his revulsion at himself, he gradually started slipping further through the cracks, or perhaps rather, new strange becomings began growing from the space between old and new faces, between ravaged and artificial skins. He even writes at one point that "putting one mask over another would be the same as not putting on any at all" [19] . As his face began to unravel, so did his perception of the facial assemblage as a whole. When confronted with a grotesque close-up of a woman's face in the movie theatre, he becomes very much aware of the inhuman nature of the face, of any face, even real ones (64). The protagonist attempts to find a mask becoming that is not a face. He sees the line of flight and attempts to trace it. In a drug induced haze, he writes the following:

"I had gone beyond the face itself and arrived at the other side of the problem. I may have glimpsed, if only for a moment, a freedom which was unimaginable when I relied on human relationships seen through the window of the face. (...)Having lost my face, perhaps I could make contact with another world of real things, which were not pictures painted in windows.

This twice removed deterritorialization came with its own dangers, however, and the protagonist would indeed ultimately fail. Not because of some castrating oedipal relationship with his wife, but rather because he falls into phantasm, into the black hole, into the dark pits of madness and self-destruction, becoming no different than a sociopath.

Ironically, it seemed rather that his wife was indeed more successful. Initially trapped in a binary husband/wife, beauty/beast opposition, she breaks free and finds her own line of flight; her woman-becoming and her mask-becoming. She is the penultimate traitor in the novel. She betrays her social role as a wife, she betrays the truth by playing along with her husband's masquerade, she betrays adultery by committing it with her own husband, and most importantly, she betrays and rejects her role as an oedipalizing force. In a way, the man/woman assemblage at the beginning of the novel required the creation of the mask as a catalyst of sorts, thereby creating a new assemblage, one through which a line of flight could be traced, and the fluxes of desire could freely run. The wife sees through the mask. She sees through this new facial machine her husband built for himself. She goes through white wall and establishes a clandestine, transgressive relationship both with her husband and with the mask. Throughout the novel her husband deplores her "impersonality", her "transparent nonexpression" [20] . He writes of standing "in blank amazement before the unknown territory of [her]" [21] . However, it may be argued that she is the one who sees the face for what it is. A machinic assemblage, a signifier of expression. And as such she manages to undo it, to unravel it, to become imperceptible.

Lines of Flight, Desiring machines and the Woman in the dunes:

"The weed overflows by virtue of being restrained. It grows between. It is the path itself." [22] 

Of our three novels, none has garnered more interpretations than The Woman in the Dunes, partly, perhaps, due to the very successful movie adaptation by Teshigahara Hiroshi, but also because this novel is arguably the most straight-forward in its narrative structure. The story follows Niki Jumpei-one of very few characters in Abe's literature to actually have a name, although it is only ever used in official document. Niki is a socially awkward schoolteacher-cum-amateur-entomologist whose quasi-obsessive search for a new species of sand beetle, coupled with a general dissatisfaction with his life, leads him to an uncanny desert-like landscape on the coast line. More uncanny still than the massive expanse of sand, was the existence of a strange village, consisting of isolated houses at the bottom of sand pits, each of them completely enclosed within their individual sand prisons except for rope ladders dangling from the top. Having lost himself (and his bearings) to his musings on insects and the nature of sand, the protagonist is offered shelter for the night by a group of villagers, which he gratefully accepts. He is led down to one of the sand enclosed houses where he makes the acquaintance of his strange hostess, unaware that she would soon become his jailer. What follows is a tale very much reminiscent of Camus' Sisyphus. Niki quickly realizes that he is being held prisoner, condemned to shovel the ever flowing sand night after night in order to prevent it from collapsing over the glorified rotten shed of a house in which he was now confined.

This has of course largely been interpreted as Abe's allegorical criticism of communism and the pointlessness of labour for its own sake. Abe had indeed been ousted of the JCP around the time that he wrote the novel, and was quite disillusioned with the idea of communism as a whole. However, it is wholly reductive of his work to see it as a two hundred and forty pages long anticommunist pamphlet. On a similar note, some scholars may focus on the relationship between the protagonist and the women in his life, seeing them, and indeed his very imprisonment, as castrating forces in his life. Susan Napier interpreted the woman's portrayal (and indeed that of all of Abe's female characters) as evidence of Abe's sexism and misogyny [23] . I contend that it is not so. The man/woman dynamic in this novel is indeed crucial, and Abe even begins his account by mentioning a psychoanalyst's take on Niki's disappearance, stating that

"In a grown man, enthusiasm for such a useless pastime as collecting insects was evidence enough of a mental quirk. Even in children, unusual preoccupation with insect collecting frequently indicates an Oedipus complex. In order to compensate for his unsatisfied desires, the child enjoys sticking pins into insects, which he need never fear will escape". [24] 

However, to borrow Deleuze and Guattari's commentary on Kafka, Abe seems to want to "use Oedipus to serve his diabolical project" [25] . What should feel like an extremely claustrophobic tale of torture, entrapment and emasculation quickly becomes something else entirely. Indeed, from a Deleuzian perspective, The Woman in the Dunes is a story of desire, lines of flight and multiple becomings. The village, the sand, and the relationship between the protagonist and the woman all show the machinic assemblages of power, and the desire that courses through them. The story is infused with animal becomings, which are at first invariably reterritorialized by the powerful machines of authoritarian desire. This ambiguity of desire, torn between the authoritarian strata and the line of flight, permeates the entire novel.

Unhappy with the suffocating and pointless pressure of urban society, the protagonist begins his tale with a nomadic deterritorialization into the desert. He is fascinated by the constant flow of the desert sands, admiring their "hydrodynamic" qualities. He almost enviously notes that "its flow is its life. It absolutely never stops… it moves about free and unrestricted" [26] . His initial deterritorialization comes through an insect becoming, which is neither metaphorical nor symbolic. In D&G's own words, "It is a map of intensities. It is an ensemble of states, each distinct from the other, grafted onto the man insofar as he is searching for a way out. It is a creative line of flight that ways nothing other than what it is" [27] . Animal becomings are one sort of BwO, as they deconstruct and unravel the authoritarian strata which form signified and subjectivated identity, and as such allow the creation of lines of flight and points of deterritorialization. Forming a new, transgressive assemblage, Niki deterritorializes his insects and reterritorializes them by confining them to his jars, pinning them down, but they deterritorialize him in return; they take him out of the urban landscape, but reterritorialize him in the desert, and ultimately the village. Niki's line of flight is interrupted, and he quickly finds himself trapped within the village machine, which he described as "entwined like the strands of a fish net" [28] .

Abe's novel, much like Kafka's works, marks a point where animal becoming is no longer enough. "The animal becoming effectively shows a way out, traces a line of flight, but is incapable of following it or making it its own", for "the animal was still too close, still too perceptible, too visible, too individuated" [29] . What becomes necessary is a new sort of relationship; a complex assemblage, allowing for the creation of a Body without Organs through which the intensities of desire could flow uninterrupted. The apparent unity of the village is really a series of segmented lines, of innumerable small houses separated by sand. Niki escapes the urban machine, but the village machine is exactly the same. There is, however, through the cracks, down the rabbit hole, another dimension, another machine, a line of flight which is intrinsically tied to the haecceity of desire. Counter-intuitively, this is only possible by virtue of his confinement.

At the beginning of his ordeal, the man realizes that his captor is very much a captive herself, forced to engage in the same pointless labour as he is. He becomes "angry at the things that bound the woman… and at the woman who let herself be bound" [30] . But it is possible to see their bondage in the same way that Deleuze and Guattari see the masochist, whose very suffering creates the space for the flowing intensities of desire, forming a body without organs which links him to the plane of immanence and consistency [31] . In a moment of complete despair, Niki says the following: "it was really a picture puzzle landscape. There was a woman… there was sand… there was an empty water jar… there was a drooling wolf… there was a sun. And somewhere, he knew not where, there must also be a storm center and lines of discontinuity" [32] . As his pain intensifies, so do the "cracks" (fêlures) [33] , ultimately leading to a complete rupture, a "one way ticket", a line of flight. Let us consider the following passage, which is arguably the most bizarre in the entire novel:

"[…] if tongs were driven into his nose and slimy blood stopped up his ears… if his teeth were broken one by one with hammer blows and splinters jammed into his urethra… if a vulva were cut away and sewn onto his eyelids. It might resemble cruelty, and then again it might be a little different". [34] 

Uncanny though they may be, these ramblings strongly echo the Masochist's "programme" as described in A Thousand Plateaus, which takes his organs away from their pre-imposed functions by torturing the flesh and sewing orifices shut [35] .

Suffering and confinement are not sufficient for an absolute and positive deterritorialization, however. In order to create a BwO, and build a connection with the plane of consistency, it is necessary first to create interconnecting complex assemblages through which the flux of intensities and haecceities may pass. The man/woman machine is not enough. This is where "Hope" comes into play. In a fit of despair, our protagonist builds a crow trap within the sand pit with the wild hope of catching a bird and sending a message to the outside world. What happens is entirely more transgressive and revolutionary. Indeed, the contraption the man built somehow worked as a water pumping mechanism, draining moisture from the sand. This sand/bucket/water machine, coupled with the man/woman assemblage created the perfect BwO through which lines of becoming could be traced. "Hope", as the protagonist aptly named it, was not enough on its own. Just as the discovery of the stirrup machine in the Middle Ages required a pre-existing man/horse machine in order to create a new assemblage of war which would in turn allow the feudal machine to exist [36] , so did the water draining mechanism require the man/woman symbiosis built throughout the novel. In another eerie example of Abe's unconscious intertextuality with D&G, the protagonist wonders at a spider using electrical light to attract and engage its prey and asks himself whether this was a new species of spider, one whose very existence was predicated on its contact with humans [37] . In true Deleuzian fashion, everything is assemblage, everything is interconnected in rhizomatic fluctuations of desire, and absolute positive deterritorializations are possible even within the confines of a dreary sand pit.

The Woman in the Dunes is infused with a man becoming of the sand and a sand becoming of the man. The protagonist witnesses a double deterritorialization: that which he imposes on the sand by attempting to domesticate it, shoveling it away every day and draining it of moisture, but in conjunction to the deterritorialization of the sand, to the man becoming of the sand, there is a deterritorialization of the man; a sand becoming of the man "which [the sand] proposes to the man by indicating ways out or means of escape which the man would never have thought of by himself (schizo escape)" [38] . Through a progressive nomadization, much like that of the flowing sands themselves, both the protagonist and his jailer go through various states of becoming even within the confines of the sand pit, ultimately finding their line of absolute deterritorialization.

One may argue, of course, that the protagonist of the woman in the dunes is re-oedipalized at the end of the novel, since he decides to stay with the woman and indefinitely postpones his escape. I contend, however, that this man/woman coupling is no longer an oedipal binary opposition, but a desiring machine. Together they form a new community. A community of traitors in Deleuze and Guattari's meaning of the term. The man betrays his urban life, he betrays the other woman; he even betrays his insect becoming in favour of sand and woman becomings. The man/woman assemblage connects with the sand/water/bucket machine to create a BwO through which desire can finally flow freely and multiple lines of flight can be traced.

Unfortunately, an absolute deterritorialization such as theirs is not without its potential pitfalls. Indeed, Deleuze and Guattari spent much time insisting on the dangers of an abrupt break, and while the protagonist in The Woman in the Dunes went through gradual and positive steps, the same cannot be said for Abe's Box Man.

Falling into the black hole: the Box Man or the Dangers of Abrupt Deterritorialization.

"A true break […] must constantly be protected not merely against its false imitations, but also against itself" [39] 

Characters for D&G are neither people nor subjects. They are collections of intensive sensations and multiplicities, forming a collective assemblage of enunciation. This is never as obvious as in the Box man, which is arguably the most complex and the most ambitious of the three novels. Abe's "stammering" reaches new levels in a work whose complex structure is only surpassed by the schizoid multiplicity of its characters. What we have here is an ambiguous asignifying and asubjectivated series of Box Men, coming together as an uncanny, radically deterritorialized aggregate.

Contrary to the protagonists of the two previous novels, a box man's deterritorialization is very much a voluntary act. He is not kidnapped, nor is he a victim of any unfortunate accident. These are men who simply decided to withdraw from society and its oppressive sedentary and authoritarian nature. However, instead of simply becoming a vagrant or a drifter, the box man chooses to inhabit a large box, turning a cardboard object into something between a mobile home and a secondary skin. The box men's existence may be seen as a radical deterritorialization and rejection of the state/society machine, but it is not positive in the least. The man/box assemblage creates a body without organs, but it is inhabited with entirely negative intensities of desire.

Who or what is a box man? The narrator himself is not entirely certain, questioning at several points in the novel his very existence. By definition, a box man is epitomized deterritorialization. He quite literally escapes society, choosing instead a nomadic lifestyle in which he would not be bound by societal norms and the shame they entail.

Paradoxically, however, he painstakingly enumerates a series of often absurd criteria for a true authentic box man (a box man does not sweat, for example). The entire novel becomes an account of a schizophrenic psychosis in which the authenticity of box men is constantly put on trial. Furthermore, although he claims to seek invisibility, the box man is very much aware of his conspicuousness and of the unnerving effect he has on those who see him. He also acknowledges the infectious nature of his very existence. Indeed, those who do come into contact with him are drawn to his bizarre lifestyle, ultimately becoming box men themselves. This leads to a systematic and mimetic serialization which of course is highly problematic, as the box man constantly fears his total replacement by a duplicate. The box men's psychosis takes form in the disjointed structure of the text itself, as one is never certain who is speaking, and whether there is a true box man at all. There are real and fake box men, a real doctor who becomes a box man, a fake doctor who becomes a fake box man, an amateur photographer (ostensibly our narrator) who insist on his authentic "box-ness" but who eventually acknowledges his falsehood. Even the woman, whose existence acts like the sole barrier keeping the box men from melting into each other, is in fact a fake nurse to the aforementioned fake doctor. \

The confusion reaches its critical point when the narrator-whoever he may truly be-succumbs to utter madness, and possibly even murders (or drives to suicide) the woman who had been attempting to get him out of his cardboard skin, which by then had transformed into a complex all-encompassing labyrinth in which he was now trapped forever. This deep level of madness is precisely what Deleuze and Guattari warn against when they discuss the dangers of abrupt and absolute deterritorialization. In ATP, they insist that it is not enough to oppose the BwO with the organized strata of signifiance, subjectivation and the organism, for each of those strata has an authoritarian BwO of its own. They speak of cancerous cells which go mad and multiply, and which require the authoritarian power of the organism to return it to normal, to re-stratify it [40] . For if the organism itself is destroyed, then the possibility of the line of flight and the creation of another BwO on the plane of consistency are destroyed with it. Allowing a brutal deterritorialization is akin to allowing the proliferation of cancerous cells. The ultimate test of desire, they write, "is not to renounce false desires, but to distinguish within desire that which causes… a violent destratification. We must keep our inner fascist, madman and suicidal tendencies in check." [41] The Box man, by virtue of its very nature, fails this test.

"The BwO never ceases to oscillate between the surfaces which stratify it and the plane which liberates it. If you free it too abruptly, if you imprudently destroy the strata, it would be as if you had killed yourself, thrown yourself into a black hole, or even leading yourself to catastrophe rather than tracing the plane" [42] .

Going back to the previously discussed white wall/black hole system, the box men desire to go through the white wall. They lose their face, replacing the facial machine with a man/box assemblage, but their very endeavor leads to their falling into the black hole. "The worst thing", D&G write, "is not to remain stratified, organized, signified, subjectivated. Rather, the worst is to precipitate the strata in a mad or suicidal collapse which would make them fall back down on us, crushing us, heavy as ever" [43] . Indeed, the fate of all box men oscillates between suicide and psychopathy. One may of course argue that the schizophrenic, in his complete and utter rejection of codified reality, is the ultimate example of successful deterritorialization and imperceptibility. Deleuze would however argue otherwise. He defines schizophrenia as "the descent of a molecular process into a black hole. Marginals have always inspired fear in us, and a slight horror" [44] . Much like the box men themselves, who claim imperceptibility yet acknowledge their extreme conspicuousness, the schizophrenics "are not clandestine enough" [45] . Abe's box men therefore slip into the quicksand, and into "a black hole from which they no longer utter anything but the micro-fascist speech of their dependency and their giddiness: 'We are the avant-garde', 'We are the marginals'" [46] .


Abe Kobo's novels may seem confined or limited to very intimate individual crises, but there is always an intensely collective and political story vibrating within them. A story of desiring machines, of escaping the order of things, of finding a line of flight and creating a body without organs. The writer and his works form a wonderfully complex assemblage through which multiple becomings are created. Abe's writing deterritorializes him just as he deterritorializes it, creating mutual movements of betrayal. Betrayal of Japaneseness, of communism, of conventional society, of major literature, of the readers themselves, who are surprised at each and every turn. He writes between the cracks. He is truly imperceptible. Deleuze and Guattari would be proud.