First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
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 locals have other plans. Held captive with seemingly no chance of escape, he is tasked with shoveling back the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten to destroy the village. His only companion is an odd young woman. Together their fates become intertwined as they work side by side at this Sisyphean task.
Wah. Another work week has ended. Happy Friday everyone! The weekend is over the horizon; I can’t wait to settle for the weekend even though it means I will be procrastinating the entire day. Or maybe watch some new Korean variety show. Anyway, I hope you all had a great end to the week. I hope you are all doing well despite the swirl of uncertainties surrounding all of us. I am fervently hoping for this pandemic to end soon so that we can go back to the way things were before COVID19 spread all over the world.
With the workweek drawing to a close, let me finish it of with another First Impression Friday update. The past two weeks have been sluggish especially that I fell sick late last week. I am better now and I am trying to regain the reading momentum I have lost. My current read is Kōbō Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes. It is a title that I have kept on encountering in several must read-lists but I have been apprehensive about for reasons I can barely recall. I think the apprehension stemmed from the misconception that it is a product of scientific fiction and is an offshoot of Frank Herbert’s Dune Series. Over time, I managed to overcome this apprehension and last year, I bough a copy of the book.
Originally published in Japanese 砂の女 Suna no Onna, “Sand Woman” in 1962, The Woman in the Dunes won the 1962 Yomiuri Prize for literature. Two years after its publication, it was translated into English. Set in 1955, the novel is the story of Jumpei Niki, a schoolteacher in Tokyo. He was also a fledgling entomologist who was eager to capture and learn more about insects. To collect more insects for his study, he visited a nearby fishing village. It was supposed to be a day trip only but, lost in the moment, he unfortunately missed the last bus going back home.
In the guise of an act of hospitality, the locals led Niki to a house in the dunes accessible only through a rope ladder. According to them, it is the only house that accepts visitors. The willing and unsuspecting Niki accepted their proposition without much thought. He did find odd that the widowed woman who owned the house spent the night sweeping away the sand that kept blowing towards her house. Niki tried to help at first but stopped to sleep. He is going home the following day after all. However, not everything turned up as he planned. The rope ladder that was his only means of escaping disappeared the following day. It then started dawning on him that he is trapped.
The Woman in the Dunes was, honestly, beyond what I expected it to be, incorporating elements that I normally wouldn’t find in a literary work. But then again, I am indulging in Japanese Literature where hardly anything can be called typical. It is also this out-of-box approach that makes Japanese literature distinct. As for the novel, I feel like Niki’s fate is already a foregone conclusion. In the opening pages, he was already pronounced as dead because it has been seven years since his disappearance. What I am counting on is how Abe recreates the events that has transpired from the day Niki realized his fate until the moment he has accepted it. There appear to be an unexpected storyline surfacing as the narrative move forward and I am looking forward to how this develops as well.
The novel is rather quick read and it is my goal to finish it over the weekend. How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend!