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Review on The Woman in Dunes by Kōbō Abe
By El.N. | January 13, 2018

The Woman in Dunes by Kōbō Abe, published in 1964, is a distinguished fiction story with Kafka's writing style. Yomiuri Prize for literature was awarded to the author of this book in 1962, as well as Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger for Novel in 1967.

The Woman in Dunes is attractive for patient readers who let the book take them to its world, in other words it takes some time for the reader to feel himself/herself in the book's atmosphere. However, this patience is worth because of the book's significant craft. The book is about a world which does not exist but it elaborately pointed out life’s realities.

As sand slowly comes to everywhere in main character’s life from under his nails to his eyes to his clothes, to his food, reader will slowly feel the sand in his/her life as well, between reader’s teeth for instance. The beauty of this book is in its slowness and depth.  The story makes reader think how horrifying it can be to have a life filled with digging sand as everyday routine to live. Nothing is enjoyable when it is not chosen and when there is no other option, especially digging sand.

This book can remind us of Kafka who was a pioneer in crafting stories where truest and most disappointing realities are pointed out through story and without any direct sentence. Although there are some exaggerations in some parts of the story, there is nothing to say it will not happen in a real world.

Simple and small number of elements and elaborately using them is admirable and indicates authors genius. Elements like “radio” make reader think how life-changing a radio can be. Or “newspaper”
which in the beginning of the story was part of main character’s life and at the end of the story did not mean much to the main character’s life.

Reader is hopeful when main character is trying to escape. Moreover, reader is disappointed when main character is disappointed and returned to the hole. Chosen return of the main character to the hole at the end of the story might be a surprise for reader, was it due to adoptability to the environment? Was it because main character was tired of trying and trying and losing every time? Was it because of changes in main character’s goals?  These are questions that each reader might have a different response for.

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