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What's in it for me? Sand.,
This review is from: The Woman in the Dunes (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Novels in translation always present at least twice their share of pitfalls for the reviewer, or even the reader. A translated novel has to be approached as a package, experienced as such and reviewed in kind. After reading The Woman In The Dunes by Kobo Abe I am presented with a wholly new dilemma, however.
An entomologist disappears while out bug hunting. He finds himself a virtual prisoner in a sand pit, a pit inhabited by a woman with whom he soon finds a predictable solace. He tries to escape, and does not. He dreams of escape, and does not achieve his goal. The characteristics of his new environment seem to contradict all of his assumptions. Nothing helps.
The Woman In The Dunes might be described as absurd. Equally, the term nihilistic might be appropriate. It might even be deliberately trivial. As such it presents an intellectual challenge to the reader who, of necessity, must constantly interpolate the banality of the book's inaction into a sub-text of potentially enormous significance. I say "potentially" enormous significance because I remain unsure, having finished the book, whether any significance at all might apply. But then again, perhaps that's the point.
The Woman In The Dunes has been likened to Kafka's Trial or the absurdity of Samuel Beckett's plays. As an experience, however, none of the suspense of the former nor the bald linguistic power of the latter. Perhaps the novel's rather one-paced prose was a true reflection of the original. If so, then I might suggest that the writer rather over-stated his point.