Monday, September 1, 2008

On "The Woman in the Dunes" by Kobo Abe ****

I don't know exactly what to think about this book. Centered around a sandpit into which the main character is drawn, the story seems a metaphor for any number of things. Is the sandpit death? life? marriage and family? duty to society? American aid to Japan? The one blatant comparison is to a spiderweb or to a pit into which one bug draws another bug as prey. In this sense, the man at the story's center is the bug drawn into the pit of the woman--and of the society for which she works. As such, perhaps the broader comparison most applicable is to that of societal constraints and family obligation. But Abe also seems to hint that the trap is life itself. Consigned to dig in the sand each day just to keep the trap from caving in, the man perennially wonders why the woman doesn't have any will to escape--or any desire to let him escape. This is life, she seems to say--what more do you wish for? A lot more, the man thinks, but in the end, is there anything more? Or are we all consigned to sandpits from which there is no digging out, pits that are decaying and that will eventually bury us?

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