Woman in the Dunes

Topics: Dune, Singing sand, Sand Pages: 2 (552 words) Published: June 23, 2007
In Abe's novels, plot and character are usually subservient to idea and symbol. This makes The Woman in the Dunes something of an anomaly. Its plot is devious, addictive yet straightforward. An amateur entomologist arrives in a remote area of sand dunes with hopes of identifying a type of sand beetle. Night falls and the villagers offer him shelter in a ramshackle house at the bottom of a funnel-shaped pit of sand. Descent is possible only by means of a rope ladder. The occupant of the house, a young woman, spends most of the night shovelling sand into buckets, which are then raised by the villagers: her house is one of a bulwark that prevents the village being swallowed by the advancing sand dunes. When he awakes, the man finds the rope ladder is gone. His attempts to climb out of the pit repeatedly fail, and he comes to realise, first with incredulity, then outrage, then fear, that he is now a conscript in this Sisyphean labour. Nor is he the first outsider to be press-ganged into the battle against the encroaching dunes: but the villagers allow inadequate specimens to die, rather than risk detection by the distant authorities. The book, "Woman in the Dunes" is a self-contained fictional world in which a man, is unsuspectingly lead into captivity and slavery by a village of sand dune dwellers in order to help upkeep the living and livelihood of a middle aged woman. Although straying from blatantly obvious philosophical tactics, it could be interpreted as a study in individuality and the sociology of forced coexistent. The one puzzling thing, at least to me, is that while reading the book, I took it as a criticism of intensely enforced socialized structures. I was then quite taken aback when later I read that the author was in fact a communist, as it almost seems more a criticism of communal society than an advocate for it. Here is, essentially, a Marxist commune, in which all citizens work for the greater good of the community, that is: clearing the sand...
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