The Woman in the Dunes

The Woman in the Dunes

Book - 1991
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The Woman in the Dunes, by celebrated writer and thinker Kobo Abe, combines the essence of myth, suspense and the existential novel.
After missing the last bus home following a day trip to the seashore, an amateur entomologist is offered lodging for the night at the bottom of a vast sand pit. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he quickly discovers that the locals have other plans. Held captive with seemingly no chance of escape, he is tasked with shoveling back the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten to destroy the village. His only companion is an odd young woman. Together their fates become intertwined as they work side by side at this Sisyphean task.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1991.
Edition: 1st Vintage international ed.
ISBN: 9780679733782
Branch Call Number: FIC/ABE
Characteristics: 239 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.


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For some strange reason my father took me to see the film version of THE WOMAN IN THE DUNES when I was in grade school. It was a traumatic experience. Recently as an homage to that painful moment from my youth I decided to read the Kobo Abe novel. It was hard work. The story is a metaphor for man-woman entanglement, a battle of the sexes that takes place in a rotting house at the bottom of a sandpit. Think of it as a retro version -- more Kafka and Camus -- of GONE GIRL minus any of the pulp noir elements.

Sep 10, 2012

Woman in the Dunes (Suna no onna) is a highly symbolic story that focuses on an amateur entomologist on what he thinks is a day trip from Tokyo to a seaside area with vast sand dunes. As he looks for a particular beetle that he thinks will bring him fame within scientific circles, he loses track of time and local villagers come upon him. For overnight lodging, they take him to a woman who lives in the bottom of a sand pit reachable only by a rope ladder. With the ladder gone the next morning, it dawns on him that he is being held captive by the villagers. ....In an increasingly hurried world, often dictated by lifestyle choices and constant need for more, the story depicts a place without self-imposed ideals, personal ambition or the yearning for expression and acceptance in modern society. It asks us to reflect on our own need for validation and self-purpose. Is a quiet working life to be likened to a insignificant pinned insect waiting to expire? Or only living by the bare essentials and free of desire and ego can we, like the entomologist, begin to discover potential in the most trivial of things - and understand that by merely existing can a person potentially discover ultimate freedom.


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Jun 01, 2016

I didn’t understand. But life isn’t something one can understand, I suppose. There are all kinds of life, and sometimes the other side of the hill looks greener. What’s hardest for me is not knowing what living like this will ever come to.


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