The Woman in the Dunes

The Woman in the Dunes - Kōbō Abe, E. Dale Saunders, Machi Abe Sand sucks.

The sand in this novel is so oppressive, invasive, and omnipresent, that after finishing the book, I felt like I needed to take a shower. Maybe two.


"His words were absorbed by the sand and blown by the wind, and there was no way of knowing how far they reached."
The book is the basis of one of my favorite Japanese movies, and it's story is so eccentric, I wanted to see how it worked as a novel. It's the tale of a man, who disappeared and was declared dead after he journeyed on his own to study some bugs at an isolated beach town, and found himself in a mysterious woman's house at the bottom of a sand pit. The novel details what happens to this man at the bottom of that hole.


"The whole surface of her body was covered with a coat of fine sand, which hid the details and brought out the feminine lines; she seemed a statue gilded with sand."
The story is totally unique, bleak, and claustrophobic. It's filled with Sisyphean themes, and (as another reviewer put it) it focuses on the erosion of many different things: not just the earth but also the wearing away of boundaries as well as the wearing away of sanity. Aspects of the writing style were not to my taste though, drifting away from the narrative for numerous pages as the main character muses on a multitude of topics. Because of this, it probably deserves more like three or three and a half stars, but I'm always pretty generous with my stars. It's worth reading because this intriguing tale is truly an original.


"While he mused on the effect of the flowing sands, he was seized from time to time by hallucinations in which he himself began to move with the flow."