Woman in the Dunes

Woman in the Dunes

( Japanese - Suna no onna 砂の女 - 1962 )

novel by Kobo Abe

translated by E.Dale Saunders

Published: Knopf - hardback - 1964
ISBN: none

Secker and Warburg - hardback - 1965
ISBN: none

Berkley Medallion - paperback - 1965
ISBN: none

Charles Tuttle - paperback - 1967 ( + >20 reprints? )
ISBN: 4805302070 / 9784805302071

Sphere - paperback - 1972
ISBN: 0722110154 / 9780722110157

Vintage Books USA - paperback - 1972
ISBN: 0394718143 / 9780394718149

Oxford University Press ( Twentieth Century Classics ) - paperback - 1987
ISBN: 0192820923 / 9780192820921

Penguin ( Modern Classics ) - paperback - 2006
ISBN: 0141188529 / 9780141188522

An entomologist named Jumpei Niki (played in the film by Eiji Okada) is on an expedition to collect insects in an area of sand dunes. When he misses the last bus back, a group of locals suggest that he stay the night in their village. They send him down a rope ladder to a house at the bottom of a sandpit, where a young widow (played by Kyoko Kishida) lives alone. She has been tasked by the villagers with digging sand to be sold to the cities, mostly under the table (sand with salt should not be used for construction purposes), and with preventing the sands from destroying the house (if her house succumbs to the desert then the other houses in the village will be threatened).

When Jumpei tries to leave the next morning, he finds the ladder removed. The villagers inform him that he must help the widow in her endless task of digging sand. Jumpei initially tries to escape; upon failing he takes the widow captive but is forced to release her in order to receive water from the villagers.

Jumpei becomes the widow's lover. However, he still desperately wants to leave. One morning, he escapes from the sand dune and starts running while being chased by the villagers. Jumpei is not familiar with the geography of the area and eventually gets trapped in some quicksand. The villagers free him from the quicksand and then return him back to the widow.

Eventually, Jumpei resigns himself to his fate. Through his persistent effort to trap a crow as a messenger, he discovers a way to draw water from the damp sand at night. He thus becomes absorbed in the task of perfecting his technology and adapts to his "trapped" life. The focus of the film shifts to the way in which the couple cope with the oppressiveness of their condition and the power of their physical attraction in spite of — or possibly because of — their situation.

At the end of the film Jumpei gets his chance to escape, but he chooses to prolong his stay in the dune. A report after seven years declaring him missing is then shown hanging from a wall, written by the police and signed by his mother Shino.

Released in 1964, directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara ( Abe wrote the screenplay )
Awards ( film )
Won the Special Jury Prize at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in the same year ( losing out to Italian film Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow ). In 1965, Teshigahara was nominated for the Best Director Oscar ( losing to Robert Wise for The Sound of Music )

Page last modified on Thursday 21 of April, 2011 07:23:55 GMT-0000