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The Woman in the Dunes (1962)

by Kōbō Abe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,706584,239 (3.83)1 / 147
In this famous postwar Japanese novel, the first of Abe's to be translated into English, Niki Jumpei, an amateur entomologist in pursuit of a rare specimen of beetle, wanders into a strange seaside village, whose residents all live in sandpits. He is taken prisoner, and, along with a widow cast out by the community, he is forced to move into her sandpit and continually shovel away the sand that threatens to take over the village. In Niki's struggles to escape his prison and his developing relationship with the woman, he gradually comes to understand the existential nature of life.… (more)
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» See also 147 mentions

English (54)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  All languages (58)
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
4.5 stars (9/10). Bizarre, claustrophobic, fascinating. An intense, Kafka-like allegory that left me scratching at the sand accumulating in my own life. Beautiful, but disconcerting language and imagery, even in translation. Here’s a few gems I highlighted...

“The morning, pressing its face, like the belly of a snail, against the windowpane, was laughing at him.”

“He was awakened by a cock’s crow, like the creaking of a rusty swing. It was a restless, hangnail awakening.”

“His pores opened, and a thousand prickly little insects, like grains of rice, came crawling out.”

“he blearily made out the newspaper print, like the legs of a dead fly.”

“He wanted to believe that his own lack of movement had stopped all movement in the world, the way a hibernating frog abolishes winter.” ( )
  invisiblecityzen | Mar 13, 2022 |
4.5 stars (9/10). Bizarre, claustrophobic, fascinating. An intense, Kafka-like allegory that left me scratching at the sand accumulating in my own life. Beautiful, but disconcerting language and imagery, even in translation. Here’s a few gems I highlighted...

“The morning, pressing its face, like the belly of a snail, against the windowpane, was laughing at him.”

“He was awakened by a cock’s crow, like the creaking of a rusty swing. It was a restless, hangnail awakening.”

“His pores opened, and a thousand prickly little insects, like grains of rice, came crawling out.”

“he blearily made out the newspaper print, like the legs of a dead fly.”

“He wanted to believe that his own lack of movement had stopped all movement in the world, the way a hibernating frog abolishes winter.” ( )
  invisiblecityzen | Mar 13, 2022 |
I first read this title in 1971, when I was an undergraduate (I first viewed Teshigahara's film about the same time). I remembered large portions of the book pretty clearly -- the entomology, that village in the dunes, the ever present sand, his anger at being held captive, his attempts at escape, his acquiescence, and his discovery of how leech water from the dunes; but portions of the book, mostly those with pop existential philosophizing about his condition, ruminations on sex (a fixation that for me interferes with the story) and death (with an insufficient balance for life). This latter bits firmly place the book in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This is one of Saunders' earliest literary translations; I think he improved over time. I'm curious to see whether or not this title, one of Abe's first novels to be translated, will be translated by one of the newer masters of translating Japanese and how the two translations might compare. Regardless, while I'm not as impressed as I remember I once was, I enjoyed the reread and highly recommend it. ( )
  kewing | Feb 28, 2022 |
Mistura perturbadora de claustrofobia, terror e surrealismo que permeia essa visão de mundo do autor. O professor Niki Jumpei decide passar suas férias perseguindo seu hobby de coletar insetos. Ele tem aspirações de descobrir um novo tipo de besouro,
conseguindo assim uma pequena dose de distinção. Quando tais descobertas são feitas, Abe nos lembra que o nome do descobridor aparecerá nas enciclopédias de entomologia anexadas ao nome latino do inseto recém encontrado e lá, será preservado por quanto tempo a sociedade durar.

O professor acredita que sua melhor chance de encontrar o besouro provêm do estudo de habitats incomuns, onde novas formas podem ter evoluído em adaptação ao ambiente alterado. Ele decidiu se concentrar em terrenos arenosos e assim, parte para um tipo diferente de férias na praia, com a rede de captura, frascos e produtos químicos necessários para sua busca.

Acontece que Niki Jumpei será capturado e mantido, um espécime humano preso no mesmo ambiente em que ele esperava ser o colecionador. Com característica de sonho, reunindo elementos mais incongruentes e implausíveis em um história tão instável quanto as dunas que descreve, mas apresentada com rigor e atenção à simbologia que nunca cai em pura fantasia ou irracional.

Os moradores locais se oferecem para colocá-lo em uma das casas nos buracos de areia durante a noite, onde uma viúva cuidará dele. Sem outras opções, ele aceita sua oferta e desce uma escada de corda até o fundo de um poço profundo.

No dia seguinte, falta a escada de corda e o professor percebe que os aldeões não tem intenção de deixá-lo sair. Espera-se que ele ajude a viúva na tarefa de remover a areia que se acumula infinitamente em buracos onde os habitantes locais vivem. A mulher não mostra interesse em ajudá-lo a escapar ou em sair ela mesma. Quando ele se recusa a ajudar com a remoção de areia os moradores cortam o suprimento de água. Com o tempo, Jumpei é forçado a trabalhar mas ele continua tramando métodos para escapar.

Ao surrealismo o autor impõe um racionalismo infalível, até uma atitude científica o que reforça a claustrofobia e a solidão do romance.

A história traça paralelos com o esforço monumental da reconstrução do Japão após a segunda guerra mundial. Mas no lugar da moral da história nos deixa com apenas um espaço em branco.

Foi adaptado para o cinema em 1964 com o mesmo título, marco máximo da new wave do cinema japonês, ganhou o premio especial do júri no festival de Cannes. ( )
  Marcos_Augusto | Sep 17, 2021 |
Not quite as bizarre as some other Abe titles and one misses the first person narrative. The story acts as a metaphor for the routines we trap ourselves in aswell as being a broader metaphor for the Sisyphean nature of all endeavour. Abe's usual attention to technical detail is there and it's uncanny how he keeps you engaged by immersing you in the intricacies while you keep turning the pages. It's Kafkaesque in its shadowy fellow protagonists inscrutable machinations in controlling the insect collector's fate. The absurd and reflections on the meaninglessness of existence are inserted into the narrative while at the same time the protagonist harbours the illusion that order will be restored at any moment. I enjoyed it slightly lesser than The Box Man and Face of Another, it's not as intriguing or as open to interpretation as those in my view but stands as an instructive tale to set off your own reflections. ( )
1 vote Kevinred | Jun 4, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kōbō Abeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Abe, MachiIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cornips, ThérèseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gross, AlexCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saunders, E. DaleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
WITHOUT THE THREAT
OF PUNISHMENT
THERE IS NO JOY
IN FLIGHT
罰がなければ、逃げるたのしみもない
Dedication
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One day in August a man disappeared.
八月のある日、男が一人、行方不明になった。
Quotations
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Es gibt wahrhaftig kein wunderlicheres, so von Neid zerfressenes Wesen wie einen Schullehrer! Da strömen die Schüler Jahr für Jahr gleich einem Fluß an ihm vorbei, nur er selber bleibt wie ein tief auf dem Grund des Flusses liegender Stein zurück. Er kann wohl anderen von Hoffnungen erzählen, aber ihm selber sind sie nicht erlaubt. Er kommt sich nutzlos vor und verfällt entweder in selbstquälerischen Trübsinn oder wird ein Moralprediger, der anderen vorschreiben will, wie sie zu leben haben. Eigenwilligkeit und Tatkraft anderer müssen ihm schon deswegen zuwider sein, weil er selber sich aus tiefster Seele danach sehnt.
"... Schriftsteller werden zu wollen, bedeutet, von Egoismus besessen zu sein; man will sich von einer Marionette dadurch unterscheiden, daß man selber als Puppenspieler in Erscheinung tritt. Insofern unterscheidet man sich nicht wesentlich von Frauen, die ein Make-up benutzen."

"Das ist zu hart formuliert! Aber wenn sie schon das Wort Schriftsteller in diesem Sinne gebrauchen, sollten Sie wenigstens bis zu einem gewissen Grad zwischen einem Schriftsteller und dem Schreiben unterscheiden!"

"Ja, genau das meine ich. Eben aus diesem Grund wollte ich Schriftsteller werden. Und wenn mir das nicht gelingt, sehe ich nicht ein, weshalb ich schreiben sollte!"
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In this famous postwar Japanese novel, the first of Abe's to be translated into English, Niki Jumpei, an amateur entomologist in pursuit of a rare specimen of beetle, wanders into a strange seaside village, whose residents all live in sandpits. He is taken prisoner, and, along with a widow cast out by the community, he is forced to move into her sandpit and continually shovel away the sand that threatens to take over the village. In Niki's struggles to escape his prison and his developing relationship with the woman, he gradually comes to understand the existential nature of life.

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