This is the third of Taichi Yamada’s novels that has been translated into English in recent years and, although it was originally published in Japan in the early nineties, this will further cement her growing reputation outside of her home country as being a leading voice in contemporary Japanese literature. As with Strangers and In Search of a Distant Voice, this novel is a love story set in a world where the ‘real’ and the ‘supernatural’ exist side by side and whilst the existence of ghosts might cause a little puzzlement to and complications for the characters, they are not a cause of moral or philosophical panic. The supernatural is not to be feared or disbelieved, but to be accepted with a shrug and a resigned sigh. The clash between the real and the supernatural are characterised by understatement, although it is this very clash that drives the narrative.
In I Haven’t Dreamed of Flying for a While tells the story of a love affair between a forty-something man and a sixty-something woman, who meet across the curtains of a hospital ward. It is never clear whether the woman is a ghost (although the dust jacket describes this as a ghost story), but she is suffering from a condition which is making her younger at a rapid pace. By the last time she appears in the novel, she has regressed to a three-year old and the man has lost his marriage, his home, his job, his freedom and, arguably his sanity. It is never made quite clear whether this is a story about the woman’s descent into childhood or the man’s descent into madness and that is what makes Yamada’s writing so impressive. She raises some big issues, but writes with such economy, such sparseness, with an understatement similar to her characters’ reactions when they come up against the supernatural. It is what she resists telling us that is important as what she does tell us. Very skillful writing and satisying reading.