The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe

(By the way, I’ve started my very first salaried position!!)

I spent the weekend reading The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe, which should have been a quick read, but it wasn’t because I was surrounded by people all weekend. But by Jove, I finished it!

This book was recommended to me by a couple I was staying with in Philadelphia last year. I was in town for the Philly PodFest to see Overdue’s live show, and that got me and my hosts discussing books we liked. They suggested The Woman in the Dunes, as well as Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee, and I think they also recommended The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem.

So, I didn’t really care for this book too much. I mean, on the surface it was surreal, which I appreciated, but I’m not really here for existentialism. I loved the village the Man found himself stuck in. This village is located on the dunes of a beach, and is pretty much a bunch of deep pits with houses at the bottom to keep the sand from…destroying the town on the surface? Again, I was really distracted by everything else this weekend, but I think that was the jist of it. People living in pits essentially as slaves to keep a small population safe.

I liked the man’s interest in insects and his fascination with sand. I would have liked to know more about the insects the Man was studying. Sand really is one of the main characters in this book alongside the titular Woman. I could complain how the Woman wasn’t really characterized as well as I’d like, but I’m starting to think that’s just a feature of surrealism–that everyone outside the POV character’s head is just a figment. Not that the Woman didn’t have personality. She wanted a radio. She was hyper-polite. She was complacent.

I also liked the ending, where a lot of the action and character growth takes place. Kind of reminded me of the ending of 1984, which might be a spoiler in itself.

I’m glad I read it, but it just wasn’t for me.


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