The Woman in the Dunes (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 28 Sep 2006
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
"Abe follows with meticulous precision his hero's constantly shifting physical, emotional and psychological states. He also presents...everyday existence in a sand pit with such compelling realism that these passages serve both to heighten the credibility of the bizarre plot and subtly increase the interior tensions of the novel." -- The New York Times Book Review "Some of Kobo Abe's readers will recall Kafka's manipulation of a nightmarish tyranny of the unknown, others Beckett's selection of sites like the sand pit...as a symbol of the undignified human predicament." -- Saturday Review
About the Author
Kobo Abe was born in Tokyo in 1924, grew up in Manchuria, and returned to Japan in his early twenties. Before his death in 1993, 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.
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Top Customer Reviews
And so we find ourselves in a bizarre fairytale-like world, where sand is everything and everything is sand. It permeates, literally, everything Niki thinks about, until he can think of little more than the properties, qualities, types and uses of sand. The book does for silica crystals what Moby Dick did for whales: that is, approach it from all sides and finish it off by writing more about it than we could ever wish to know. In the clichéd language of reviewers everywhere, the sand seems to become a character itself. But unlike Moby Dick, The Woman in the Dunes never loses sight of the story, and it becomes positively page-turning. It also evokes the borderline-otherworldliness J.G. Ballard - and in particular his novel Concrete Island, where a man becomes trapped in a sunken motorway island - and the sort of thing that I always thought Kafka wrote but actually didn't (ie paranoid allegories of existence which actually make linear sense).Read more ›
The Woman in the Dunes is told in almost abstract, allegorical terms. The reader only learns the protagonist's name on the last page, otherwise known as the man to the other main character, the woman. The story begins as an entomologist gets caught by the dark in the dunes by a seaside village. He thinks he is offered accommodation, but the house into which he is lowered, at the bottom of a deep sandpit, makes a prisoner of him, condemned forever to shovel the encroaching sand. From the outset, the plot and setting are endowed with an unreal, rhetorical quality. As the man struggles to escape, the focus changes to the repetitiveness of daily life, the futility of society with its news and entertainment, which the man soon discards. His relationship with the woman is thrown a stark, ambiguous but mostly adversarial light. And the novel emerges as metaphor for the pointlessness of human life; any life:, not just life at the bottom of a sandpit.
Abe had been compared with Kafka, and they share a dry, allegorical style as well as bitter, sarcastic humour and the occasional expository interruption in a third voice. Some sex scenes in this novel are quite crude, as they are in The Castle. But The Woman in the Dunes differs from Kafka in key respects. First, Abe enjoys providing forensic detail, engaging in what is nowadays fashionably called research. Thus he muses about insect species, about sand itself, about the niceties of police reports. This makes the story more real. Second, the novel is not entirely bleak, allowing for some positive ambivalence as one approaches the end. This is an extremely intriguing and engaging novel, idiosyncratic and probably unrepresentative of modern Japanese fiction such as one finds in the better-know Mishima.
When night falls, he is forced to seek shelter, and is offered a room in a rickety house with a young widow, down a dune, accessible only by rope ladder. When day dawns, he finds the ladder has been removed, and he is expected to spend his nights assisting the woman in loading buckets with sand, otherwise her house (and the village) will be overwhelmed with sand.
I was dubious about the cover's calling it 'Kafkaesque' and 'existential'. would it be too deep for this reader to get the meaning? The answer is no, it's very accessible. As our insect-collector gets used to the awful surroundings, he begins to comprehend how the villagers stay in this god-forsaken spot:
'He could easily understand how it was possible to live such a life. There were kitchens...blaring radios and broken radios...and in the midst of them all were scattered hundred-yen pieces, domestic animals, children, sex, promissory notes, adultery, incense burners, souvenir photos, and...It goes on, terrifyingly repetitive. One could not do without repetition in life, like the beating of the heart, but it was also true that the beating of the heart was not all there was to life.'
Caught up in the minutiae of life: whether it's work, like a hamster on a wheel; sensual enjoyments; materialistic ambition (the woman aspires to buy a radio); or engrossing if ultimately futile pastimes (the man finds new insects in his dune); humans find meaning in lives which when considered dispassionately are pretty pointless.
Exciting and thought-provoking, this was a great read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Kobo Abe fast became one of my favourite writers after reading this, darkly gripping and deeply disturbing. What's not to like?Published 16 months ago by FaFa
I bought this book as a result of my recent discovery of the pleasures of existentialist literature. Read morePublished on 1 Nov. 2012 by Amazon Customer
This is an original story about the insect collector, Jumpei, who gets caught in a hole in the sand without being able to escape. Read morePublished on 13 July 2012 by A Customer
It's decades since I read any Kafka, but I didn't need the comment on the cover to immediately draw the comparison. Read morePublished on 8 Jun. 2012 by therealus
The plot is simple: a man visits a coastal region, where the inhabitants are forced to work tirelessly to clear their homes of sand. Read morePublished on 11 Aug. 2011 by Amazon Customer
This book is a tale located in the sand dunes of a remote coastal village in early 1960's Japan. There are basically two characters the school master Niki, who's an intellectual... Read morePublished on 18 Jun. 2011 by H. Tee
I have found a new writer of which I wish to grab all of the work of and see if it is as good or dare I say, improves even... Read morePublished on 16 Nov. 2010 by Nikki Dudley
Novels in translation always present at least twice their share of pitfalls for the reviewer, or even the reader. Read morePublished on 10 May 2010 by Philip Spires