The Woman in the Dunes Paperback
by Kobo Abe
Part of the Penguin Modern Classics series
Dazzlingly original, Kobo Abe's "The Woman in the Dunes" is one of the premier Japanese novels in the twentieth century, and this "Penguin Classics" edition contains a new introduction by David Mitchell, author of "Cloud Atlas".
Niki Jumpei, an amateur entomologist, searches the scorching desert for beetles.
As night falls he is forced to seek shelter in an eerie village, half-buried by huge sand dunes.
He awakes to the terrifying realization that the villagers have imprisoned him with a young woman at the bottom of a vast sand pit.
Tricked into slavery and threatened with starvation if he does not work, Jumpei's only chance is to shovel the ever-encroaching sand - or face an agonising death. Among the greatest Japanese novels of the twentieth century, "The Woman in the Dunes" combines the essence of myth, suspense, and the existential novel.
Kobo Abe (1924-93) was born in Tokyo, grew up in Manchuria, and returned to Japan in his early twenties.
During his life Abe was considered his country's foremost living novelist.
His novels have earned many literary awards and prizes, and have all been bestsellers in Japan. They include "The Woman in the Dunes", "The Ark Sakura", "The Face of Another", "The Box Man", and "The Ruined Map".
If you liked "The Woman in the Dunes", you might enjoy Albert Camus' "The Plague", also available in "Penguin Classics". "A haunting Kafkaesque nightmare". ("Time").
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 256 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 28/09/2006
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780141188522
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Review by clfisha
I don't usually like heavily symbolic books but I was too intrigued not to try this existential Japanese classic. The plot is simple: An entomologist travels alone to a remote seaside village and never returns. His is tricked and imprisoned in a house deep in a sand pit and forced endlessly dig sand. It is an interesting book, deceptively easy to read so you are entranced from the start and the plot is great fuel for discussion (just read the many reviews!) The atmosphere just exudes from the page, the sand almost becoming the main character, ubiquitous in every scene, framing the story. However there few tiny areas I had trouble with, that jarred me out of the story and bored me (i.e. the discussion of desire, "spiritual rape"). It gets 3 stars as I am not sure yet if I would read it again.