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The Woman in the Dunes

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  28,528 ratings  ·  2,491 reviews
The Woman in the Dunes, by celebrated writer and thinker Kobo Abe, combines the essence of myth, suspense and the existential novel.

After missing the last bus home following a day trip to the seashore, an amateur entomologist is offered lodging for the night at the bottom of a vast sand pit. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he quickly discovers that the loc
Paperback, 241 pages
Published April 16th 1991 by Vintage (first published 1962)
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Shelley It's on my list to watch - the reviews of the movie seem to be excellent…moreIt's on my list to watch - the reviews of the movie seem to be excellent(less)
Kaly Forrest When I like a book, I try never see its movie. Kobo Abe's novels are special to me, I love his psychological craft and The Women In the Dunes is a fin…moreWhen I like a book, I try never see its movie. Kobo Abe's novels are special to me, I love his psychological craft and The Women In the Dunes is a fine one. I don't see nothing dark about it, you just slowly watching how a human mind can be manipulated. I read it in two translations, both were amazing.(less)

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Ahmad Sharabiani
Suna No Onna = Sand Woman = The Woman in the Dunes, Kōbō Abe

The Woman in the Dunes is a novel by the Japanese writer Kōbō Abe, published in 1962. It won the 1962 Yomiuri Prize for literature, and an English translation and a film adaptation appeared in 1964.

In 1955, Jumpei Niki, a school teacher from Tokyo, visits a fishing village to collect insects. After missing the last bus, he is led, by the villagers, in an act of apparent hospitality, to a house in the dunes that can be reached only by ro
Feb 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is horrifically claustrophobic and eerie.

How much of our lives consist of frantically trying to stay afloat? Life can be as fruitless as a man trapped under sand dunes digging to live...or living to dig. Do we work to live or live to work? If you think being held hostage in sand is fantastical, what do you think your life is, anyway?

This book wears you down. It gets into your skin, your hair, under your fingernails. The sand is everywhere. The wind, the salt air, their eyes always wat
Jim Fonseca
[Edited 4/21/22]
An existential classic from Japan. A lonely young man is an amateur entomologist and schoolteacher. He hopes to find a new species of sand beetle, so he goes off on a weekend expedition to a beach town where the houses are buried in pits by the ever-shifting stands. He asks about a place to stay and reaches his night’s lodging with a landlady by descending a rope ladder.

The next day the rope ladder is gone and he discovers he is a prisoner who will be kept there to help the woma
Dana Ilie
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book tell the story of an entomologist that, in his search for a specific beetle, ends up trapped by local villagers in a huge sand hole with a woman, where he is forced to work gathering sand. As time pass by, his emotions and sanity begin to get twisted. In his struggle to escape both human and nature obstacles, he tries different strategies, and we are caught cheering for his success, but kind of knowing that his chances are minimal, which is a good "distressing" experience.
This is truly
Will Byrnes
Nov 02, 2008 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steven Godin
Jan 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan, fiction

Had my arachnophobia been replaced by Ammophobia (fear of sand) there was a certain moment in Kōbō Abe's 1962 existential fable my hands would have turned extra clammy and my thumping heart would have likely jumped out of my chest to find safety. What an odd story this was. It reads something like a Japanese Kafka, infused with a bit of Nietzsche, and topped off with a light dusting of Beckett. Abe was generally known for work where plot and character are usually subservient to idea and symbol.

When we mix surrealistic Kafkaesque climate with existential questions about sense of human being then we get something like The woman in the dunes.

Tale about a man obsessed or maybe possessed with sand who during the trip to the sea is trapped in the dunes in a cave inhabited by a lonely woman. Initially desperately tries to escape but the magnetic strength of the woman, her desperate fight with sand makes that what previously seemed to be a trap now becomes a sense of his life. The first wh
Apr 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

Without the threat of punishment there is no joy in flight.

In Kobo Abe's fantasy world of The Woman in the Dunes, an amateur entomologist on vacation finds himself in a remote coastal village built amid deeply undulating dunes. There, he is tricked by a lonely widow and her neighboring villagers, trapped in deep pits shored by sand drift walls, to be charged with the task of shoveling back the ever-sliding banks, persistent and never-ending in its threat to entomb them.

Sand moves aroun
I have long wondered and still wonder about the meaning of this masterful novel. I kind of updated the "myth of Sisyphus". In each cell of sandy ground, guards watch that each occupant of his hole correctly evacuates the sand to keep this sort of alveolar village alive. Despite himself, the protagonist will fall into one of these holes already occupied by a woman who can no longer, on her own, evacuate the sand. And our man quickly realizes that the trap has closed on him. After the failure of a ...more
Apr 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese-lit
“While he mused on the effect of the flowing sands, he was seized from time to time by hallucinations in which he himself began to move with the flow.”

This book is about a man who tricked and has to live in a house at the bottom of a sand pit with a woman. They can't escape the sand which settles on them even as they sleep. As much as they shovel it away, they can't get rid of it.

This is definitely a unique story. I now know more about sand than I probably need to. I never really thought much a
L.S. Popovich
One of my favorite books of all time. One of the best film adaptations of a book as well, done by Hiroshi Teshigahara in collaboration with Abe. Both are equally mesmeric.

Kobo Abe's well-honed, surreal worlds became etched permanently in my mind, and this novel more than his others. Even after reading some of his less intense, and less masterful novels, I still retained a deep appreciation for his bizarre aesthetic. You will discover a similar texture and attitude as in Poe or Baudelaire. Though
Visceral, claustrophobic, poetic. And not for me.
description- Anakin Skywalker a.k.a. Darth Vader

General and themes
I didn’t understand. But life isn’t something one can understand, I suppose.

The Woman in the Dunes brings us the mysterious tale of a man looking for insects but ending up in a seaside village of houses nestled in honeycomb like pits of sand. One of the creatures he plans to discover in the dunes is a beetle that is known to lures it victims into desserts to feast of their flesh when they die:
Jan 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Since I started reading both more avidly and more widely several years ago, I've spent more time analyzing different genres, different kinds of authors, and different kinds of literature. In Jane Smiley's 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, she makes a number of observations about how classic French novels differ from classic British novels, and how American novelists differ from either. I'm not well read enough in French and British literature to judge the validity of her points, other than to not ...more
Vicky "phenkos"
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars!

As others have noted, this is very much a Japanese Kafka; but also a Japanese Camus, more L'Etranger than Gregor Samsa. I was drawn into the story from the start, although it needs to be kept in mind that this is not your average plot-oriented page turner. A man disappears. Enquiries are made as to the circumstances of his disappearance. He doesn't seem to harbour a dirty secret, and he could be the type that disappears deliberately (although the items he took with him -tools for colle
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this, second year at Durham, so 86/87, was in rebellion against Geography books. Probably attracted by the naked woman torso on the cover, however, the writing is sensual and erotic. It's only years later do I discover that Japan is possibly one of the most prolific in terms of sexual, and sensual i.e. as in good - Nobel good, not trashy sexy.
It's something of a contradiction given the very formal and discreet nature of Japanese culture. Interesting to say the least.
Also a very strong tra
Feb 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wait… what did I just experience? Very minor spoilers ahead.

Going into this book, I knew that 2021 was the Year of Japan (for me). For one reason or another, my aim has been to up the number of Japanese books that I read. This meant that, sooner or later, I was bound to yield to the Goodreads algorithm once again. It was time to tackle The Woman in the Dunes. It didn’t hurt that the cover looked unbelievably gorgeous. What I was not expecting was possibly the best fictional existential book
Mar 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: にほん
While reading this book my thoughts were constantly racing towards Camus’s ‘The Myth of Sisyphus” "From the moment absurdity is recognized, it becomes a passion, the most harrowing of all."

Premises of hope, alienation and irrationality reeking from every printed word induced me into inferring Kobo Abe being the Japanese Camus. The protagonist Junpei Niki illustrates traits of Sisyphean persona; pursuing meaningless task of digging buckets of sand from the pit only to see it fill up again.

Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan, 2018
There are these horrifying insects called antlions that dig holes and bury themselves at the bottom of them, just their jaws sticking out of the sand, and wait for ants to fall in so they can trap and devour them. They're scary monsters and it's all a nightmare. Niki Jumpei is an amateur entomologist so he probably knows about antlions, but he gets caught anyway.


So Kōbō Abe (Kobo aBAY) has blown it up to human size for this brilliant, suffocating 1962 allegory, a classic in Japan. Jumpei stumble
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very claustrophobic novel about a man who comes imprisoned in a sand pit in the dunes with a unknown woman. His task is to shovel sand away each day to protect the nearby village. A tantalising job leading nowhere.
Although the place of action and the action itself is confined, the story is gripping. I couldn't stop reading, wanting to know if he could escape ultimately... It reads like a thriller.
Also The author somehow succeeds in varying the limited handlings and make the story also read li
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
What happens if while on vacation, you disappear? Who would miss you, take out newspaper ads for you, hang missing-person flyers on poles for you, call the cops for you?

High in the night sky there was a continuous, discordant sound of wind blowing at a different velocity. And on the ground the wind was a knife continually shaving off thin layers of sand, as a village of sand lost all hope. The village's only resourcefulness has now become enslavement. Poor entomologist, a man who finds pleasure
Edward Lorn
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
Man, this is gonna be rough. I'm going to have people telling me that "Just because you were bored doesn't mean this wasn't a terrific piece of literature." No doubt, the original Japanese text must've been wonderful to win the award(s) it did, but this translation is merely serviceable. Then again, the idea of a parable is to keep the story and writing simple in order to clearly relay your message.

Still, lads and ladies, I was mighty bored. Took me eight days to read 241 pages. (Oh, by the way,
Jan 04, 2008 added it
Shelves: crappy-books
My first year at SFSU, me and my roommate decided to recommend books to each other, books we loved, in order to get to know each other better. It was the kind of quasi-homoerotic, pseudo-intellectual buddy activity which has since become the staple of our relationship.

The first book he recommended was "Woman in the Dunes". I struggled with it and felt intellectually inferior. He was my friend and I wanted to like it. I tried really hard. I fell asleep reading it at least three times. I remember
Kōbō Abe's The Woman in the Dunes is not only his most famous novel, but a classic of post-war Japanese literature and existential literature in general. Reviewers compared Abe to Sartre and Camus; it's been years since I've read both, so I'll do my best to judge the book on its own merit.

On surface, The Woman in the Dunes is a deceptively simple story. The main character, Niki Jumpei, is an amateur entomologist who travels to a remote area of Japan in search for rare insects. Jumpei desires to
La Tonya  Jordan
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: good-read
Amazing 😊 Wonderful 😃 I completely enjoyed this novel. Every page was an astonishment of what will help next. A man who collects insects for a hobby goes on vacation to the sea and finds sand dunes that are so pronounce he is kidnapped by the villagers to dig sand at night to prevent the town from sinking. He lives with a woman whose husband and child was killed by a typhoon that sunk their chicken coop into the sand.

After trying to escape several times and failing, he keeps devising a differen
The Woman in the Dunes is a racy existential thriller. The author lures you in with the first few chapters in which a young entomologist, who is collecting insects in a village by the beach, misses the last bus. The young man is struck by the strangeness of the village in which all the houses have been built inside large holes. The villagers agree to put him up for the night with a widow who lives in a hut located inside a hole. The unsuspecting young man climbs down into the hole using a rope l ...more
Dhanaraj Rajan
May be three and half stars.

This is a strange Japanese novel. It is something surreal.

The Premise and the Story line: A man is taken a prisoner by a village which is near the sea front. He is lowered down a sand pit where lives a young widow. Here he is made to help out the woman in shoveling out the advance of sand. As the house (sandpit) is in the border of the town and one among many such sand pit homes, the duty of the house members is to block the advance of sand dunes. Or else the whole v
Sand sucks.

The sand in this novel is so oppressive, invasive, and omnipresent, that after finishing the book, I felt like I needed to take a shower. Maybe two.

"His words were absorbed by the sand and blown by the wind, and there was no way of knowing how far they reached."
The book is the basis of one of my favorite Japanese movies, and it's story is so eccentric, I wanted to see how it worked as a novel. It's the tale of a man, who disappeared and was declared dead after he journeye
Timothy Urgest
The Woman in the Dunes is a bleak novel about the human plight and the monotony of existence.

The Woman in the Dunes is also about sand.
Jen - The Tolkien Gal
Never in my life did I think I'd enjoy entire chapters about bugs, sand and more sand.

This was a great break from my only exposure to Japanese literature (Murakami) and it was a fantastic book. Full review to come. First I need to shake off some sand.

Image result for confused screaming

Image result for sand is coarse
Aug 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, slipstream
A novel of erosion - erosion of resolve, erosion of morality, erosion of sanity. Delightfully surreal.
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Kōbō Abe (安部 公房 Abe Kōbō), pseudonym of Kimifusa Abe, was a Japanese writer, playwright, photographer, and inventor.

He was the son of a doctor and studied medicine at Tokyo University. He never practised however, giving it up to join a literary group that aimed to apply surrealist techniques to Marxist ideology.

Abe has been often compared to Franz Kafka and Alberto Moravia for his surreal, often

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