The Woman in the Dunes

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For the film adaptation of this novel, see Woman in the Dunes. For the Steven Severin album, see The Woman in the Dunes (Steven Severin album).

The Woman in the Dunes (砂の女 Suna no onna "sand woman") is a novel by the Japanese writer Kōbō Abe, published in 1962. It won the 1962 Yomiuri Prize for literature, and an English translation and a film adaptation appeared in 1964.


In 1955,[1] Jumpei Niki,[2] a schoolteacher from Tokyo, visits a fishing village to collect insects. After missing the last bus, he is led, by the villagers, in an act of apparent hospitality, to a house in the dunes that can be reached only by ladder. The next morning the ladder is gone and he finds he is expected to keep the house clear of sand with the woman living there, with whom he is also to produce children. He eventually gives up trying to escape when he comes to realize returning to his old life would give him no more liberty. After seven years, he is proclaimed officially dead.[1]

Publication, reception, and legacy[edit]

The book attracted much attention in Japan on its publication in 1962, earning praise from critics as well as contemporaries such as Kenzaburō Ōe and Yukio Mishima. It won that year's Yomiuri Prize for literature. An English translation appeared in 1964, as did a film adaptation[2] directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara starring Eiji Okada which won the Special Jury Prize at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival.[1]


  1. ^ a b c O'Neil 2004, p. 16.
  2. ^ a b Treat 1994, p. 457.

Works cited[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Dissanayake, Wimal (1990). "Self, Place and Body in The Woman in the Dunes". In Toyama, J.; Ochner, N. Literary Relations East and West. 3. University of Hawaii at Manoa Press. ISBN 9780824813246. 
  • Kimball, Arthur G. (1962). "Identity Found: Suna no onna". Crisis in Identity and the Contemporary Japanese Novel. Tuttle. 

External links[edit]