Artworking Kobo Abe’s Woman in the Dunes
‘The fact that it had no form was the highest manifestation of its power.’
—Kobo Abe, Woman In The Dunes
Notes on becoming sand
Sisyphean absurdity, Orwellian nightmare, existential crisis… There’s more than a single reading of Kobe Abe’s classic and each time I tackle it I find a new way of shovelling sand.
The dunes are relentless.
Consider the possibility that the unnamed woman is an agent of the sand, the shifting dunes given form, not as fragments of rock but as a fleshy, sweaty mirage of desire. Her surface passivity belies something inexorable as she lulls the hapless entomologist into her lair. For all his initial resistance, ultimately, he’s willing prey.
After seven years, Jumpei Niki is proclaimed officially dead.
In the end I’m left with nothing but a hole in the ground, sand falling through my fingers and an unexplained absence… and this is why Woman In The Dunes is so immensely satisfying.
‘He wanted to believe that his own lack of movement had stopped all movement in the world, the way a hibernating frog abolishes winter.’ —Kobo Abe, Woman In The Dunes