The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe
Kobo Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes’s motif is itself not essentially a parable. It exists within and without the boundaries of utopian gestures. Out of which comes a story that is fluid, relatable, and engrossing. Kobo Abe’s way of narrating the story of a man wandering in a remote desert with the goal of identifying a type of sand beetle; who gets sucked into a trap with a woman with whom he has to shovel sand away to survive the advancing sand dunes is existential, in so many ways.
The man has no way to escape the pit. He is doomed to live in it doing the same thing every day, in repetition, like the beating of the heart.
“One could not do without repetition in life, like the beating of the heart, but it is also true that the beating of the heart was not all there was to life.”
So what is the purpose of such a life with a pronounced fate? The novel has a great way of illustrating the man’s frustration and the woman’s passionless gloom while they wrestle with sand’s inevitable triumph; and with each other’s thirsts.
The novel mirrors the movement of sand with the flow of time. And how both are one and the same lest one loses one’s grip on what’s real. Here, sand is life and living and death and dying.
The man and the woman are brought together in happenstance. And their lives threaded together so intricately that both their identities soon dissolve and become one entity. Read this novel if you want to feel the slow, grudging tide of captivity; of what was, is, and will become irrespective of how many shadows we cast behind us.