Reviews of Woman in the Dunes, the (1962)
Review by polarisdib (2009-03-27)
I saw Teshigahara's adaptation of this recently at Ye Locale Independent Cinema, and absolutely loved it. Curiosity brought me to my roommate's copy of the book, and here we go.
This book reminded me a lot of No Exit, in that it's a very good story that is also a philosophical struggle within an enclosed space, forced into a relationship with an arbitrary person. Kobo Abe's desire, though, is to detail post-occupation Japan as a place that has lost its roots and is struggling constantly against sand. The research in it is pretty good too, as the theme and symbolism of sand is backed up by true geographical properties of sand. The word sand appears in this book often and is rarely replaced by "it". I think this book may use the word sand more often than any other book of fiction.
There's one thing I don't really get about it. The man, Jumpei, waxes very philosophical about everything. So it's only natural that he waxes philosophical over sex as well. But I don't understand in the least what this book is actually saying about sex. In this book, sex transcends act, relationship, and intimacy and becomes this complicated thing beyond the initial power play it represents. I almost want to complain about overthinking sex, but I might just not have understood what it was intending to say. Perhaps anyone else who has read this book can enlighten me.