Books: Solution and Dissolution

THE RUINED MAP by Kobo Abe. Translated by E. Dale Saunders. 299 pages. Knopf. $5.95.

In literature and electronics, the Japanese urge to modernize has had much the same effect. Japanese novelists often study Western models as faithfully and earnestly as their engineering brothers ingest technical manuals. The result is that too often the final product resembles nothing so much as a dubbed-in Oriental film. Occasionally, though, a novelist, borne along on his own exquisite and honorable psychological insight, transforms a Western genre into a vehicle for approaching a universal truth.

The Woman in the Dunes was such a book. Kobo Abé, one...

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