Rating: 3 stars
I picked up on this horrible but compelling Japanese psychological horror story thanks to a photography blog I follow. The photographer visited the dunes at Tottori which are believed to be the inspiration for the novel.
Kobō Abe‘s classic is a strange book. The protagonist isn’t a pleasant character – dismissive of others, cold, aloof – and yet I found myself on his side. The book is quite dreamlike, with things happening off to the side of where you think you are. A simple trip to look for beetles turns into a living nightmare, full of frustration and anger. I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t stop reading it. There was much unpacking of its surreal gentle horror in the kitchen before our evening meal, mostly to get the circling thoughts and suffocating frustration out of my head. It was an awful reading experience, in that my horror was in recognition of the believable situation the protagonist ends up in. The sense of isolation and despair, the descent into ineffectual cunning and guile, the violence born of frustration, was almost mentally crippling at times.
I think I’m glad I read it, in the sense that it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.