11 September 2012

The castle

Angkor Wat, Cambodia (image source)

Sometimes he would tell her the story of the guard who protected the imaginary castle.

There was a castle. No. It wasn't necessarily a castle, it could be anything: a factory, a bank, a gambling house. So the guard could be either a watchman or a bodyguard. Now the guard, always prepared for the enemy attack, never failed in his vigilance. One day the long-expected enemy finally came. This was the moment, and he rang the alarm signal. Strangely enough, however, there was no response from the troops. Needless to say, the enemy easily overpowered the guard in one fell swoop. In his fading consciousness he saw the enemy sweeping like the wind through the gates, over the walls, and into the buildings unhindered by anyone. No, it was the castle, not the enemy, that was really like the wind. The single guard, like a withered tree in the wilderness, had stood guarding an illusion.

– from The Woman in the Dunes by Abé Kobo and E. Dale Saunders

See also "A Message from the Emperor" by Franz Kafka and Mark Harman, a sort of streamlined version of Das Schloß.


  1. That quotation could serve as an epigraph for Dino Buzzati's The Tartar Steppe.

  2. A Borges favorite, Buzzati. It also somehow reminded me of Cavafy's "Waiting for the Barbarians".

  3. I've been meaning to read The Woman in the Dunes for years but somehow I never manage to. I've been seeing copies of the novel all over the city this last year with some frequency, so surely the book gods are trying to tell me something.

  4. The book gods, illusory or not, must be heeded.

  5. Kobo Abe's a writer whose work I want to work my way through.

  6. Ditto, Gary. The Box Man, the other one I've read, is even more brilliant.