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Triangulate Kafka, Camus, and the early novels of J.G. Ballard, and you'll find Kōbō Abe's The Woman in the Dunes, his first and also his best known novel, in part because of Hiroshi Teshigahara's wonderful film adaptation (Abe collaborated with Teshigahara on that and three other films, Pitfall, The Face of Another and Man Without a Map). Illustrated with line drawings by Machi Yamada, Abe's wife, its allegorical narrative is as simple, and as morally complex, as a fairy tale. Amateur entomologist Jumpei Niki visits remote dunes in search of rare beetles, becomes caught up in the scheme of a village to save itself from the advancing sand, and is trapped at the bottom of a pit with a young widow who is stronger and more capable than she at first seems. Niki's predicament and his attempts to escape, the parched heat of his claustrophobic prison and the sand which frustrates his plans and permeates everything are vividly evoked; his relationship with the woman, who is stronger and more capable than she first seems, evolves into an uneasy forced marriage. Like all great stories of survival, Abe's bleak fable strips its characters to their fundamental selves, and its bizarre situation and dark, absurdist humour frame serious questions about human relationships, sacrifice, and the nature of our lives.