Published by Charles E. Tuttle on 1982 (first published 1962)
Genres: Classic, Japanese literature, Magical realism
An amateur entomologist takes a holiday in order to find a rare beetle. He ends up in a seaside village, and after supposedly missing the last bus back, he is offered a place to stay in this village that is being swallowed up by the dunes. It soon dawns upon him that he is held prisoner, condemned to shovel sand to prevent the village from disappearing.
The Woman in the Dunes was a book I had intended to read for a long time… and then it ended up being the winner of the The Classics Club Spin. Perfect!
I had no idea what to expect. I knew the book was a classic, that many people thought it was a masterpiece, and that I would be reading it sometime in the future. The plot? No clue. ‘Something with magical-realism,’ I’d heard, so I would probably like it, right?
Well, was I in for a surprise. This book gave me the creeps. For one, I don’t like sand. I won’t say I hate it, but I can do without the beach and sand between my sandwich. And this book has a lot of sand. Add to that being locked up, sad undertones, and a nice kafka-esque plot, and you’ve got the ingredients to freak me out. It’s not horror, but I was wholly expecting nightmares (thankfully that didn’t happen).
The book is brilliantly written. The style starts out very plain and straightforward. Near the end, it becomes more philosophical, which really is what you want from this story at that point. The ending is what you will begin to expect.
Additionally, my edition has illustrations by Machi Abe, Kōbō’s wife. It is amazing how well they fit the atmosphere of the book (in other words: simple but ominous).
Can’t stand kafka-esque plots? Stay away. Although I wasn’t aware of this plot and I’m overall not a fan of books that frustrate me. I might not have picked it up had I known. But in the end I loved how this book made me feel (although I was really quite happy to finish it).