Niki Jumpei, a Japanese schoolmaster and amateur collector of insects. Thirty-one years old and ordinary looking, Niki is a rather commonplace member of the conformist urban Japanese populace. He lives in the city with a woman who is not a wholly fulfilling sexual partner. He is a creature of regular habits, appears to derive his sense of identity from the way that his society and his colleagues define him, and is not particularly individualistic or imaginative. Beneath this team-player exterior, however, Niki does harbor a few sparks of desire for individual difference and distinction; hence, he collects insects as a hobby. He took up this hobby in the hope that he would find a rare or hitherto unknown specimen of some insect and thereby earn for himself renown as an amateur entomologist. Niki also likes to toy with abstract theories about the nature of reality; he is attracted to notions such as the speculation that sand moves in waves like water (except that unlike water, sand desiccates). The novel opens on an August weekend in 1955 when Niki is out alone on an insect-gathering trip among some sand dunes by the sea. What begins as a weekend outing eventually becomes a seven-year adventure as he becomes a guest of a village in the dunes, particularly of one woman in the dunes.
The Woman in the Dunes
The Woman in the Dunes, who remains unnamed throughout the novel. About thirty years of age, she is small in build and pleasant in temperament. She is a widow and lives alone, having lost her husband and only daughter to a sand slide during a typhoon the previous year. She is a down-to-earth, sensual woman (she sleeps nude, with only a towel to cover her...
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