Kobo Abe- 'The Woman in the Dunes'
Kobo Abe's 'Woman in the Dunes', made into a award winning film in 1964, is surreal and often absurd tale of imprisonment and isolation. Jumpei, a tourist visiting the beach, misses the last bus and home and is offered shelter in a nearby village. He is then kept captive with an unnamed woman at the bottom of a vast sand pit, forced to shovel the sand that threatens to engulf the village. As all his escape attempts fail he slowly becomes closer to the woman he is being held captive with and has to accept the horror of his situation.
Written in sparse prose you feel like you are in the pit shovelling the sand whilst reading it. The kafkaesque feeling of being persecuted by unknown people for unknown reasons lends a sense of futility to the story. The sand becomes a character itself, more threatening than those who are holding Jumpei hostage. A powerful statement on what happens when people are faced with nightmarish situations and how the mind can learn to cope in extraordinary circumstances.
'The Woman in the Dunes' is short, I read it in only two sittings, but I was shaking imaginary sand from my hair for weeks after.
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