Monday, January 24, 2011

Woman in the Dunes, The Interrogation

I'm in the middle of two books that create tension through a tight sense of boundaries.

The more literary (and more claustrophobic) is Kobo Abe's Woman in the Dunes. For all intents and purposes there are only two characters, the man and the woman (Abe doesn't even give us names).  In the early pages of the novel, villagers throw the man into a pit where the woman lives, constantly clearing the sand from her house.  There's no escape from the pit, so the novel (at least so far) pretty much takes place in the confines of the small house.

The whole thing feels somewhat Beckettian to me, except that the man struggles against his fate.  He tries to wheedle his way out, then force his way out, then he ties up the woman so that the villagers will free him in order to free her.  To me, Beckett's characters always feel more passive -- they know the universe is against them, and they've already given up the struggle.  There's an element of that in this novel, too; the woman has already accepted her fate before the novel begins.  It's the struggle between the two approaches that gives the novel tension and moves it forward, rather than being a static tableau.

Thomas Cook's The Interrogation seems like it's going to follow a similar pattern at first.  The police have a suspect for a murder, but only twelve hours to get a confession or otherwise the suspect must be let go.    Much of the actual time in the novel passes in the interrogation room, but Cook spends most of the novel in flashbacks, so the novel's not as claustrophobic as the summary might make one think.  However, Cook has a number of threads come together around that 12 hour mark, and the tension there is really palpable, unfolding almost like a Greek tragedy.

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