Japan's existential crises.
Blue Moon Press ($16.95)
His 1961 novella Seventeen was so controversial that Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe lived in fear for his life for years and the story has never been republished in Japan. A reaction to post-WWII Tokyo, Seventeen follows a nameless teenaged narrator from a life in liberal suburbia into one of fanatical right-wing politics and terrorism. Oe's cautionary tale is one that resonates in the current Western political landscape with the same poignancy it did almost half a century (and the other side of the world) ago. Alienation, ridicule and political upheaval feed on lost, innocent youths, turning them into a uniformed society that rejects their upbringing and politics in the most violent of manners.
THE BOX MAN
Vintage International ($13)
Kobo Abe is the kind of guy you get when Kafka and Camus collide at 100 miles an hour, landing somewhere inside Samuel Beckett. An ordinary man changes his life on a whim by shedding his personality and physicality to live inside a cardboard box that becomes home, journal and body. When his new identity as a box man is threatened, by a man trying to buy his box, the man begins to discover what his anonymous identity means for actions and sense of self both in and outside his cardboard world.
HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD
Vintage International ($14.95)
Japan's most popular novelist offers up two disconnected worlds that offer a glimmer into the other. Our narrators are an encryptionist and a dream-reader, both of whom struggle with understanding a world from which they cannot escape by trying to help others do just that. Filled with chapters that bounce from one world to the other, fantastic creatures and underground Tokyo tunnels, Haruki Murakami's strange, unrealistic environments flow so naturally off the page that they become more real than the world outside of the book.