The Woman in the Dunes But unfortunately he had let it escape. He had been too excited, and besides the beetle’s pattern of flight was confusing. It flew away, and then as if to say “Catch me!” it turned and waited. When he approached it cautiously it flew away again, turned around, and waited. Mercilessly tantalizing, its course had at last led it to a clump of grass into which it disappeared. after year students tumble along like the waters of a river. They flow away, and only the teacher is left behind, like some deeply buried rock at the bottom of the current. Although he may tell others of his hopes, he doesn’t dream of them himself. He thinks of himself as worthless and either falls into masochistic loneliness or, failing that, ultimately becomes suspicious and pious, forever denouncing the eccentricities of others. He longs so much for freedom and action that he can only hate people. Was his disappearance accidental? No. If it had been an accident, there would have been some sort of news about him. Well, then, suicide? But that would have involved the police. And suicide would be impossible! Don’t overrate the foolish boy. Yes, indeed, he disappeared by his own choice; there’s no need to root around any more. But it’ll soon be almost a week. He really is a scaremonger. I really don’t know what he can be thinking of. Her charms were like some meat-eating plant, purposely equipped with the smell of sweet honey. First she would sow the seeds of scandal by bringing him to an act of passion, and then the chains of blackmail would bind him hand and foot. It was not he who had satisfied his desires, but apparently someone quite different, someone who had borrowed his body. Sex, of its nature, was not defined by a single, individual body but by the species. An individual, finished with his squalid act, must return at once to his former self. Only the happy ones return to contentment. Those who were sad return to despair. Those who were dying return to their deathbeds. How could he possibly be convinced that such trickery was passionate love? When he actually began working, for some reason he did not resist it as much as he thought he would. What could be the cause of this change? he wondered. Was it the fear that the water would be discontinued? Was it because of his indebtedness to the woman, or something about the character of the work itself? Work seemed something fundamental for man, something which enabled him to endure the aimless flight of time. And in the midst of them all were scattered hundred-yen pieces, domestic animals, children, sex, promissory notes, adultery, incense burners, souvenir photos, and … It goes on, terrifyingly repetitive. One could not do without repetition in life, like the beating of the heart, but it was also true that the beating of the heart was not all there was to life. You like movies of wild animals and of war because you find that the same old day, following the same old yesterday, is waiting for you as soon as you come out of the movie house … you even like the films that stick so close to reality they nearly give you a heart attack. Is anybody really foolish enough to go to the movies with a real gun, loaded with real bullets? Certain kinds of mice that are said to drink their own urine in place of water, or insects that feed on spoiled meat, or nomadic tribes who know only the one-way ticket at best, can adjust their lives to the desert Leaving home is all the fashion now. I thought it was because of bad living conditions, but that doesn’t seem to be the only reason. They mentioned a middle-class farm family that had recently added land to its holdings, bought machinery, and was doing quite well, when the eldest son suddenly left home. He was a quiet, hard-working young man, and his parents were completely puzzled; they didn’t know why. In country villages you have social obligations and reputation to think of, so there really must have been a reason for the heir of the family to have left home.…—Yes, certainly. An obligation is an obligation.—Then, it appears that one of the relatives took the trouble to find the young man and hear his story. He wasn’t living with a woman, and he didn’t seem to be driven by debts or pleasure; there was no single concrete motive. Then whatever was the reason? And what the young man said made absolutely no sense at all. He seemed unable to explain it very well himself, beyond saying he just couldn’t stand it any longer.—There really are foolish people in the world, aren’t there!—But when you think about it, you can understand his feelings. When farmers increase their workable land they have that much more to do. In the final analysis, there’s no end to their labor, and they only wind up with more to do. His jaw dropped open, and he gave an animal-like cry.“Help!”The stock expression! Well, let it be a stock expression. What was the use of individuality when one was on the point of death? He wanted to go on living under any circumstances, even if his life had no more individuality than a pea in a pod. Soon he would be up to his chest, to his chin, to his nose.… Stop! This was enough! I didn’t understand. But life isn’t something one can understand, I suppose. There are all kinds of life, and sometimes the other side of the hill looks greener. What’s hardest for me is not knowing what living like this will ever come to. But obviously you can never know, no matter what sort of life you live. Somehow I can’t help but feel it would be better to have a little more to keep busy with.” Loneliness was an unsatisfied thirst for illusion. No matter how exceptional your case is, there’s absolutely no cause for worry. Just as people have no obligation to save a strange bird like you, they also don’t have the right to judge you either.