Kobo Abe's Friends


Friends (Tomodachi)

Kobo Abe

tr. Donald Keene

Grove Press, 1969

The play, in thirteen scenes with an intermission comprising the seventh, is a crime report, briefly, concerning a robbery and murder in one of the big cities (it was premiered in Tokyo). A family of thieves break into a man's house, imprison him, fleece him and give him poison before moving on to their next victim, laughing.

The modus operandi is a skillful, beguiling face beaming with “neighborly love" (as Donald Keene translates it), two policemen called to the scene merely observe a family diagreement. A reporter welcomes the new arrivals as members of a secret society he would like to join.

It could be one of Nabokov's plays (and bears a certain resemblance to Lean's film of Doctor Zhivago in the redistribution of living space), with a studied air of Kafka ("The Metamorphosis" springs to mind) and a recombination of Beckett's Eleutheria, unpublished at that time.

The man's apartment superintendent appears in Scene Seven "among the spectators, both in the lobby and in the auditorium," to distribute a leaflet explaining her detachment in Scene Five with the policemen, "An Appeal", in which she denies taking money from the family or entering into any sort of relationship with them, on the contrary, "I will take an oath that I am speaking the absolute truth when I say that the first time I ever laid eyes on those people was when I first saw them in Apartment 12."