Hebefrenia
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The Woman in the Dunes (Kōbō Abe)

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. If from the beginning you always believed that a ticket was only one-way, then you wouldn’t have to try so vainly to cling to the sand like an oyster to a rock. But nomads have gone so far as to change their name to “stock breeders,” so… 

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The Woman in the Dunes (Kōbō Abe)

He could easily understand how it was possible to live such a life. There were kitchens, there were stoves with fires burning in them, there were apple crates, in place of desks, piled full of books, there were kitchens, there were sunken hearths, there were lamps, there were stoves with fires burning in them, there were torn shoji, there were sooty ceilings, there were kitchens, there were clocks that were running and clocks that weren’t, there were blaring radios and broken radios, there were kitchens and stoves with fires in them… 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. 

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The Woman in the Dunes (Kōbō Abe)

He felt like superheated water, as if he were on the verge of boiling over. Yet he could not understand why he was so terribly attracted by her thighs. But he was… so much that he felt like taking the nerves of his body and coiling them one by one around them. The appetite of meat-eating animals must be just this—coarse, voracious. He fought back like a coiled spring. This was an experience he had not had with the other. On that bed—with the other one—they had been a feeling man and woman, a watching man and woman; they had been a man who watched himself experiencing and a woman who watched herself experiencing; they had been a woman who watched a man watching himself and a man watching a woman watching herself… all reflected in counter-mirrors… the limitless consciousness of the sexual act. Sexual desire, with a history of some hundred million years from the amoeba on up, is fortunately not easily worn out. But what he needed now was a voracious passion, a stimulation that would sweep his nerves into the woman’s loins. 

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The Woman in the Dunes (Kōbō Abe)

To be sure, he himself wasn’t so romantic as to dream of pure sexual relations. You could do that when you were looking death in the eye… like the bamboo grass that bears seeds just as it is beginning to wither… like starving mice that repeatedly and frantically copulate as they migrate… like tuberculosis patients who are all seized by a kind of sex madness… like the king or ruler who dwells in a tower and devotes himself to establishing a harem… like the soldier for whom every moment is precious as he awaits the enemy attack and who spends those final moments masturbating… Fortunately, however, man is not indiscriminately exposed to the dangers of death. Man no longer needs to fear, even in winter; he has been able to free himself of the seasonal sexual urge. Yet when the struggle is over, weapons become an encumbrance. Order has come about, and the power to control sex and brute force lies within man’s grasp, in place of Nature’s. Thus, sexual intercourse is like a commutation ticket: it has to be punched every time you use it. Of course, you must check to see that the ticket is genuine. But this checking is terribly onerous; it corresponds precisely to the complications of order. All kinds of certificates—contracts, licenses, I. D. cards, permits, certificates of title, authorizations, registrations, carrying permits, certificates of membership, letters of recommendation, notes, leases, temporary permits, agreements, income declarations, receipts, even certificates of ancestry… every conceivable type of paper must be mobilized into action. Thanks to such checks, sex is completely buried under a mantle of certifications… like a basket worm. It would be all right, I suppose, if this were satisfying. But even so, would that be the end of certificates? Wouldn’t there be something else we had forgotten to declare? Both men and women are captives of an oppressive jealousy, always suspicious that the other party has purposely left something out To demonstrate their honesty they are compelled to issue a new certificate. No one knows where it will ever stop In the last analysis, the certificate seems to be infinite. 

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The Woman in the Dunes (Kōbō Abe)

When he had rinsed his mouth and washed his face he felt better. Never before had he been so keenly aware of the marvel of water. Water was an inorganic substance like sand, a simple, transparent, inorganic substance that adapted to the body more readily than any living thing. As he let the water trickle slowly down his throat, he imagined stone-eating animals.

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The Woman in the Dunes (Kōbō Abe)

This house was already half dead. Its insides were half eaten away by tentacles of ceaselessly flowing sand. Sand, which didn’t even have a form of its own—other than the mean 1/8-mm. diameter. Yet not a single thing could stand against this shapeless, destructive power. The very fact that it had no form was doubtless the highest manifestation of its strength, was it not? 

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The Woman in the Dunes (Kōbō Abe)

…such a useless pastime as collecting insects was evidence enough of a mental quirk. Even in children, unusual preoccupation with insect collecting frequently indicates an Oedipus complex. In order to compensate for his unsatisfied desires, the child enjoys sticking pins into insects, which he need never fear will escape. And the fact that he does not leave off once he has grown up is quite definitely a sign that the condition has become worse. Thus it is far from accidental that entomologists frequently have an acute desire for acquisitions and that they are extremely reclusive, kleptomaniac, homosexual. From this point to suicide out of weariness with the world is but a step. As a matter of fact, there are even some collectors who are attracted by the potassium cyanide in their bottles rather than by the collecting itself, and no matter how they try they are quite incapable of washing their hands of the business.