Whatever interpretation beyond its seemingly excellent translation from the Japanese may be needed, this sepulchral tale follows the faint footprints of a dedicated antomologist who reaches the dunes to be pinioned there just as surely as the beetles he collects.
He is trapped in the house of a woman in an isolated village where the days are spent digging away the sand which threatens to bury them alive each night. There, in an inferno of heat and grit, the weeks pass. His resentment of the woman who keeps him captive alternates with his combative sexual need for her (the elan vital versus "the beauty of sand which belonged to death.") His hopes of escape reduce but still he makes the attempt, only to be returned to her. Finally she is taken away and he is presumably free. But "without the threat of punishment there is no joy in flight." He stays on willingly alone... Abe (whose earlier influences were Poe, Kafka, Dostoevsky) has told his small story with all kinds of nuances from the ironic to the erverse; on the other hand, he is more than explicit in the forbiddingly functional sexual detail.
The contrasts are to be continued: sometimes the novel is appropriately, irritably enclosed within the monotony of its endless sand-scapes; sometimes it is all as illusory as a mirage and as hypnotic.