Friends (translation from: Tomodachi)
A Play by Kobo Abe
Translated by Donald Keene
Charles E Tuttle, Tokyo, 1986
ISBN: 4 8053 0238 0
I bought this book in 2005, I don’t remember where, in Periplus bookstore Jogja, or in Java Books stand in some book fair so frequently held in Jogja, with special price (Rp 35,000 from original price of Rp 119,600 -shudder-). Everybody knows I love Japanese books, which usually brought up unusual themes and strange twist of storyline, but especially I love any books written by Kobo Abe (real name: Kimifusa Abe), and I would buy anything written by him. He was a doctor (but not practiced medicine), a poet, a novelist, and a playwright. His stories were mostly bizarre, absurd, surreal, and preoccupied with what happened inside the mind of the main character, in meticulous detail. The main character usually would be destroyed, lose his identity, or alienated, or isolated. One of his books, Woman in the Dunes (Suna no onna), was adapted into a movie, and won Special Jury Award in Cannes Film Festival (all people know I love Cannes’ movies). I didn’t watch it yet, but by reading the original book, I wouldn’t be surprised the movie was succeded, being very very erotic. But Woman in the Dunes is not my favourite book of Kobo Abe. Secret Rendezvous is. An insane story.
Anyway, this Friends play was published for the first time in 1969 by Grove Press, and won the Tanizaki Jun’ichirô prize. This play is about the destruction of a young man by invasion of a strange family he never knew before, consisted of a grandmother, a mother, a father, three daughters and two sons. Until the end of the play, I don’t know what this family are about, are they just impostors trying to take advantage of the situation they created to drive the young man insane, or do they really have some higher, more noble objectives like they claimed in the Scene One: the angels of the broken necklaces, the messenger of love who heal the loneliness of lonely people. The lonely people are the little lost beads, while the family are the string who gather up those “poor” little beads.
This family intruded the young man’s apartment one night, claiming that the young man was lonely (which I don’t think he did, this young man had a fiancee, although he did have difficulty in communicating his feelings to the fiancee) and they would help him by living with him, and they told him that his preference to live alone was a behavioral deviation. The young man tried to ask them politely to leave, but they just didn’t budge. The young man threatened, and even really called the police, and the police DID come, but the family acted like a perfect family, so that the young man was the one who seems out of place in his own apartment. So, the young man decided to reconcile with them and let them had their way, but then they started meddling with his relationship with his fiancee. It was when the man started losing his mind and losing his identity.
Worth to read.