Abe, Kobo “The box man”

I personally feel that a box, far from being a dead end, is an entrance to another world…

Essential book information

Basic plot summary

The box man gives up his identity and “normal” life as a member of society to live in a cardboard box. He wanders the streets and carries all his belongings with him, making notes on the cardboard’s insides.


Nameless man gives up life as we know it in favour of living in a cardboard box. He carries the box over his head together with minimum belongings. The man walks around the city and the surroundings, looking out for something to eat, searching for meaning, understanding and himself.

He encounters difficulties and small joys, different people, speculates about what is real and what is not, what is important and what less so. Step by step, he also leads the reader to understand why did he choose this lifestyle.

My recommendation

The first novel I ever read written by Kobo Abe was Woman in the Dunes. I have a soft spot for Japanese and Chinese literature because of their essential heterogenerity. This quality makes it challenging to interpret the literature as there are no familiar patterns and rules, so I feel, experience, and assume.

It is a beautiful piece about loneliness in a crowded world. The story tells of a person who has renounced his identity to escape the social life, the expectations, the urge to be someone, to define oneself by all means. It makes me wonder how ridiculously insane must the existing set of societal rules and expectations seem to someone who consciously relinquished the ties with that society.

While reading the novel, I could hardly stop thinking how unreal everything is, how easy it is theoretically to change everything, to turn the world upside down.

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