Niki Jumpei is a teacher, but his true passion is entomology. His biggest dream is to discover a new type of insect and have his name written in the encyclopedias of that science. After a thorough study, he has decided that his luck will be in the desert. In the sand, it's possible that a beetle would have involved in order to survive. So he decides to take a trip and search in the desert. After many hours of walking and searching in the sand, he meets a villager that informs him that the last bus has already left and he agrees to stay the night in one of the houses in the village.
This is when his nightmare begins. They accommodate him in a house in the bottom of a pit created by the sand dunes, in which only a woman lives. Every night she has to dig through the sand walls in order to protect the house and that very first night he helps her. But the dawn comes and no one lets him out of the pit, neither a word is said of him going away. This is when he understands that something is amiss. As the days go by he tries various ways of escape, but all of them fail.
The story of this novel is very intriguing. The horror of this man's situation creeps under the skin, the futility of all his endeavours make the whole novel a nightmare put down to words. But the flashbacks and the illusions of the man makes it in some parts a little difficult to follow. The too much argumentative way of writing, although it reminds a lot Kafka's The Trial, is tiring and difficult to enjoy.
I also couldn't really connect to Niki Jumpei. His fascination with the sand is peculiar, his imagination though is exceptional. With the limited things he has available he tries to escape and almost manages it. The woman, on the other hand, is very mysterious. You can never understand what she's thinking about. She is always shy and never talks too much, but most of the time she seems without a will of her own, eager to serve a man she has never met before.
To sum things up, The Woman in the Dunes although it's considered a classic, wasn't the most enjoyable book I've read lately. The story and the feel of the novel were intense. In the end, I almost felt the sand in my mouth. But it would work much better for me if the narrative was more straightforward. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a more argumentative way of writing.
So my advice is...
At least it has a nice cover!