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The Woman in the Dunes (1962)

af Kōbō Abe

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In this famous postwar Japanese novel, the first of Abe's to be translated into English, Niki Jumpei, an amateur entomologist in pursuit of a rare specimen of beetle, wanders into a strange seaside village, whose residents all live in sandpits. He is taken prisoner, and, along with a widow cast out by the community, he is forced to move into her sandpit and continually shovel away the sand that threatens to take over the village. In Niki's struggles to escape his prison and his developing relationship with the woman, he gradually comes to understand the existential nature of life.… (mere)
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Engelsk (51)  Hollandsk (2)  Fransk (2)  Alle sprog (55)
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Mistura perturbadora de claustrofobia, terror e surrealismo que permeia essa visão de mundo do autor. O professor Niki Jumpei decide passar suas férias perseguindo seu hobby de coletar insetos. Ele tem aspirações de descobrir um novo tipo de besouro,
conseguindo assim uma pequena dose de distinção. Quando tais descobertas são feitas, Abe nos lembra que o nome do descobridor aparecerá nas enciclopédias de entomologia anexadas ao nome latino do inseto recém encontrado e lá, será preservado por quanto tempo a sociedade durar.

O professor acredita que sua melhor chance de encontrar o besouro provêm do estudo de habitats incomuns, onde novas formas podem ter evoluído em adaptação ao ambiente alterado. Ele decidiu se concentrar em terrenos arenosos e assim, parte para um tipo diferente de férias na praia, com a rede de captura, frascos e produtos químicos necessários para sua busca.

Acontece que Niki Jumpei será capturado e mantido, um espécime humano preso no mesmo ambiente em que ele esperava ser o colecionador. Com característica de sonho, reunindo elementos mais incongruentes e implausíveis em um história tão instável quanto as dunas que descreve, mas apresentada com rigor e atenção à simbologia que nunca cai em pura fantasia ou irracional.

Os moradores locais se oferecem para colocá-lo em uma das casas nos buracos de areia durante a noite, onde uma viúva cuidará dele. Sem outras opções, ele aceita sua oferta e desce uma escada de corda até o fundo de um poço profundo.

No dia seguinte, falta a escada de corda e o professor percebe que os aldeões não tem intenção de deixá-lo sair. Espera-se que ele ajude a viúva na tarefa de remover a areia que se acumula infinitamente em buracos onde os habitantes locais vivem. A mulher não mostra interesse em ajudá-lo a escapar ou em sair ela mesma. Quando ele se recusa a ajudar com a remoção de areia os moradores cortam o suprimento de água. Com o tempo, Jumpei é forçado a trabalhar mas ele continua tramando métodos para escapar.

Ao surrealismo o autor impõe um racionalismo infalível, até uma atitude científica o que reforça a claustrofobia e a solidão do romance.

A história traça paralelos com o esforço monumental da reconstrução do Japão após a segunda guerra mundial. Mas no lugar da moral da história nos deixa com apenas um espaço em branco.

Foi adaptado para o cinema em 1964 com o mesmo título, marco máximo da new wave do cinema japonês, ganhou o premio especial do júri no festival de Cannes. ( )
  Marcos_Augusto | Sep 17, 2021 |
Not quite as bizarre as some other Abe titles and one misses the first person narrative. The story acts as a metaphor for the routines we trap ourselves in aswell as being a broader metaphor for the Sisyphean nature of all endeavour. Abe's usual attention to technical detail is there and it's uncanny how he keeps you engaged by immersing you in the intricacies while you keep turning the pages. It's Kafkaesque in its shadowy fellow protagonists inscrutable machinations in controlling the insect collector's fate. The absurd and reflections on the meaninglessness of existence are inserted into the narrative while at the same time the protagonist harbours the illusion that order will be restored at any moment. I enjoyed it slightly lesser than The Box Man and Face of Another, it's not as intriguing or as open to interpretation as those in my view but stands as an instructive tale to set off your own reflections. ( )
1 stem Kevinred | Jun 4, 2021 |
The book’s protagonist describes his predicament of being trapped in a sand dune to do menial, Sisyphian labor “The Terrors of Ant Hell”, which, incidentally, serves as an apt description of this odd book. I tried to read his situation as a general allegory for the meaningless trappings of modern “adulthood”, but even that seemed too trite a lens. I certainly know a lot more about sand than I did going in, though, if that counts for anything, but would not recommend this to anyone else. ( )
1 stem jiyoungh | May 3, 2021 |
An amateur entomologist is wandering the dunes looking for rare beetles and seeks shelter for the night in a village. The elders direct him to the home of a woman whose house is in a sand pit. He′s lowered in and thus begins his captivity, endlessly shoveling to keep the house from being subsumed by sand.

At first the sand is a scientific phenomena; it′s properties, composition, and movement are discussed in an interesting, academic way. But gradually the sand becomes a character in and of itself, and its weight and endless encroachment seem deliberately menacing. It falls on the house and strains the timbers, it seeps through the ceiling and requires that the man sleep with a towel over his face, it invades every crease of clothing and skin, it gets in his mouth and eyes. It is increasingly claustrophobic both physically and psychologically.

Equally unsettling is the relationship between the the man and the woman who lives there. She is never named, and it is unclear whether she is there willingly or not. She is an amorphous being who may be a tacit jailkeeper, an ignorant dupe, a fellow prisoner, or a simple villager who has drunk the Kool-Aid. She becomes the target of the man′s anger, defiance, despair, and frustration. Her passiveness is annoying, and because her character is never fleshed out, it is hard to either sympathize with her or hate her. It makes it harder to judge the man′s treatment of her, because we don′t know what she is.

In turn, it′s not clear exactly what the novel is either. Is it a metaphor for the futility of work and life? Is it a psychological novel about a captive′s changing mindset and emotional state? Is it all a hallucination or schizophrenic nightmare?

Although I found the book unsettling and tense, I enjoyed the vivid imagery and unusual premise. I haven′t read enough Japanese literature to know how it fits into the canon thematically or style-wise, but I would recommend the book to those who enjoy Kafka or are seeking something different. ( )
  labfs39 | Mar 11, 2021 |
A wonderful Kafka-ish tale wrapped in an okay, very mid-century novel, and stuffed nearly to death with bad mid-century-existentialist 'philosophy.' The conceit is great: man gets trapped in a house amidst sand dunes; he and the woman who lives there have to continuously excavate the sand that threatens to destroy the house; he meditates ways to escape. The novelistic stuff is okay, but surprisingly recognizable as a Sixties period piece: lots of obviously unreliable free indirect and 'dramatic irony'.

The 'philosophy' is dreadful. Sex and death and existence and big themes and none of it really tied to anything interesting at all. I like lots of thought in my books, but this one made it pretty clear that for me to really care that thought has to be about something, and the so-called major themes are not something. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
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Abe, MachiIllustratormedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Cornips, ThérèseOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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In this famous postwar Japanese novel, the first of Abe's to be translated into English, Niki Jumpei, an amateur entomologist in pursuit of a rare specimen of beetle, wanders into a strange seaside village, whose residents all live in sandpits. He is taken prisoner, and, along with a widow cast out by the community, he is forced to move into her sandpit and continually shovel away the sand that threatens to take over the village. In Niki's struggles to escape his prison and his developing relationship with the woman, he gradually comes to understand the existential nature of life.

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