on…’The Woman in the Dunes’ by Kobo Abe

Posted: 28/04/2011 in Literature, Review, Uncategorized
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A claustrophobic sandy nightmare

I have always been interested in all things Japanese but this was my first exposure to more serious literature. I read this knowing nothing of the author so it was a leap in the dark. I initially thought it would be way over my head, pretentious or hollow. Luckily I was was wrong on all three counts.

The prose creeps along  in a slow and menacing way like the dunes of the title, I  felt a constant undertone of threatening dread which kept me hooked into the plot through to the last word of the last page. The real enjoyment of the book comes from the author’s ability to describe sensations and emotions relating to the protagonist who finds himself in a Kafka type scenario. I won’t go into the plot too far because despite the enjoyment of reading pure literature, it is after all a type of thriller. All I can say is that our character goes on a little excursion to collect butterflies and things don’t go according to plan. It is set on a remote coastal area with constantly moving sand dunes.  He takes you so far into these dunes that you feel like washing sand from yourself after reading it. I was plagued by constant introspection and reflection during and after reading this book, especially because it becomes so ambiguous towards the end. It brings to mind books by Camus and Kafka as it is essentially a fairly simple story with huge implications. I don’t know whether it can be classed as Japanese Existentialism but that term would certainly capture the general feel and mood of the book.

I would recommend this book to anybody looking for something slightly different or anybody who likes to think about things on a deeper level. After reading it you may think about your current path in life and you may never want to go near sand again.

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