I was led to this by someone talking about it as a type of dystopia, and I read it quickly. Some notes:
- Abe creates an interesting dystopia mostly because it’s one that the characters can probably escape from. The protagonist, Jumpei Niki, tries to tell the people of the village that they have options, and that their ultimate task -shoveling the never-ceasing sand away from their village – is hopeless. No one listens, and he ends up realizing that his other life isn’t any better than one in which he endlessly shovels sand only to have it pile back up again in the day.
- The protagonist is eminently unlikeable despite the fact that he has been trapped. In fact, the only character who is likeable of sorts is the unnamed woman, who accepts her fate and tries to find solace in the fact that she is serving her community.
- This type of service, perhaps, is a bit different than the type we worship at work…
- I’m also not sure how to read this as a post-war Japanese novel. I’m sure there are all kinds of cultural references going on that I’m unaware of…for instance, what does it mean that Jumpei is a bug collector? Is there some sort of reference to the meaninglessness of that sort of work in an irradiated, devastated, demoralized, formerly fascist and imperialist nation? Is this a reference to facing one’s sins (and the impossibility of that task in the context of the enormity of what imperial Japan did?) Is it impossible for someone as quiet and introspective and not interested in his fellow humans as the narrator to engage, and thus giving him this task in post-war Japan somehow makes sense?