Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Woman in the Dunes - Chapter 2, Section 3 continued p10-11

Woman in the Dunes – Chapter 2 Section 3 continued p.10-11

The story continues with the man reaching some signs of habitation at the coast as the landscape gradually becomes more sandy and barren. He stumbles across a village and as he make his way through it notices something strange.

I chose this section to highlight since it reminds me a little of what Abe Kobo has said about his novel being a tribute to Lewis Carroll. It is a physical landscape which seems to develop a topsy-turvy logic where walls, floors and even sand hills create a strange almost illusory atmosphere. It’s a prefiguring of the trap he is unwittingly walking into, as he minutely observes through the man’s eyes, each house sitting at the bottom of a sand depression, isolated or trapped in their own individual prisons. At this stage, however, the passages still have a dream like rather than overtly nightmare quality.


‘The road gradually began to incline more steeply and became sandier, and the strange thing was that the walls of the buildings didn’t get any higher. Only the road did. The village itself stayed level. No, that wasn’t quite it; it wasn’t just the road, the spaces between the buildings too were getting higher, just like the road. So from one viewpoint, although the whole village was sloping uphill, the actual buildings were being left behind on the surface. This impression became all the more pronounced as he continued forward until finally all of the houses became buried in the sandy slope and looked as if they were each standing at the bottom of a deep hollow. In fact the height of the slope went higher than that of the roofs and the rows of houses gradually sank deeper into the hollows created by the dunes.’



Literally ‘the sand became more and more sandy/sand like’. The sand before was presumably a mix of hard ground and sand and the text has previously alluded to the consistency of the terrain underfoot. Here we have the sand to hard ground ratio gradually leaning toward the sand part. The line is quite vivid for me as I remember that feeling of walking from the start of the beach towards the dunes (say at Camber Sands in the UK) and the increasing softening and loss of purchase of the foot. Again a metaphor for the protagonist losing control over the physical environment and becoming caught helplessly up in it.


It’s a great moment of vivid drama where you can almost hear the man’s inner voice, urging him to correct his initially unsatisfactory description of the elusive Cagliariesque landscape around him. A moment of self doubt and an attempt to pin down this dream like and bizarre environment he is stumbling through.

境 (さかい)

Lit., border or boundary/divide. Here I thought ‘spaces’ more appropriate since he seems to be referring to the areas between the buildings (and the sand levels) are also rising.


I had a bit of trouble with this. I thought does this mean, from a point of view (any) it could appear to be so, or from his point of view, or one way of looking at it. It could even be ‘seen from this angle’ in the sense of his current ‘camera position’. So I plumed from the old translators cheat; a word or phrase which in English could mean both or either. It could be much like the Japanese and possibly even intentional from the authors POV. I suppose it depends how directly/indirectly you are going to take the word or phrase. I get the image of him looking down around him at what is happening to the houses so it’s directly for me. Of course comments re this are most welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment