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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



I Havenít Dreamed of Flying
for a While


by
Yamada Taichi


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase I Havenít Dreamed of Flying for a While



Title: I Havenít Dreamed of Flying for a While
Author: Yamada Taichi
Genre: Novel
Written: 1985 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 195 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: I Havenít Dreamed of Flying for a While - US
I Havenít Dreamed of Flying for a While - UK
I Havenít Dreamed of Flying for a While - Canada
Lange habe ich nicht vom Fliegen geträumt - Deutschland
  • Japanese title: 飛ぶ夢をしばらく見ない
  • Translated by David James Karashima
  • I Havenít Dreamed of Flying for a While was made into a film in 1990, directed by Sugawa Eizo

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Our Assessment:

B+ : absurd, and yet ultimately quite effective

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 29/2/2008 Angel Gurria-Quintana
The Guardian . 22/3/2008 Steven Poole
The Japan Times . 6/4/2008 Donald Richie
TLS . 4/4/2008 Zoë Strimpel


  From the Reviews:
  • "(T)he Japanese author mixes a discomfiting cocktail of the mundane and the otherworldly. The result is intriguing, if not consistently executed." - Angel Gurria-Quintana, Financial Times

  • "The few scenes in which Taura returns home are miraculously terse, conjuring bleak emotional vistas through single lines of uninflected speech, perhaps a gift from Yamada's other life as a screenwriter. In comparison, unfortunately, the long conversations between Taura and Mutsuko are rather twee and sing-song. Even so, Yamada orchestrates such a perfect ending that the entire novel comes to seem like the striking of a gong. The resonance is the thing." - Steven Poole, The Guardian

  • "In this beautifully conceived metaphysical fantasy Taichi Yamada dramatizes a wayward liebestod, a backward love affair that links with death in both directions. In so doing he returns to a favored theme, the persistence of memory, one which so distinguished his most popular book." - Donald Richie, The Japan Times

  • "I Haven't Dreamed of Flying for a While is a heady combination of the fantastical, tragic, sentimental, and depressingly mundane. Occasionally, Taichi Yamada veers uncomfortably close to the ridiculous (...). In general, however, the innocence of Yamada's style (which is nicely conveyed by David James Karashima's English translation) and the dream-cum-nightmare quality of his plot drive home with great originality the way in which beauty and death can be two sides of the same coin." - Zoë Strimpel, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       I Havenít Dreamed of Flying for a While is a strange novel, built around an absurd premise. It is narrated by Taura, a man in his late forties who begins the novel realising he is "becoming detached from this world". He means it slightly differently, but, in fact, he's rather at sea already, living apart from his family in northern Japan (where he works for a prefab construction company) and, as it turns out, rather lost out there.
       The book begins with him in hospital, with a broken leg. It's there that he sees his life change, beginning with a premonition of an accident: in his work there was "no room left for personal instinct", and suddenly his injury and reconvalescence make for a sort of mind-freeing experience. The vision he had, of an accident, turns out to be real, and the hospital is flooded with victims, necessitating their moving Taura to another room, to share it with a woman.
       The woman is reluctant to be seen, and he can only hear her behind a screen set up between their beds. Even for a novel from the mid-1980s the attitude and concerns about a man and a woman sharing a hospital room seem exaggerated (or at least very old-fashioned), but the two patients carefully dance around one another in their conversation (including maneuvering about such delicate questions as to how to cover the sound of their urinating (as both are more or less immobilized in their beds)). Nevertheless, they develop a connexion -- and it escalates into a sexual encounter.
       Only when they wheel her out the next morning does Taura catch a glimpse of her -- and sees that she is an old woman. Transferred back to Tokyo, he is contacted by her again a few months later. Except that she is now a younger woman -- and one who again sweeps Taura away.
       Far more than Taura Mutsuko has also become detached from the world, finding herself growing younger and younger -- not steadily, but in spurts, every few months. Already her family can't comprehend what's going on and she has gone off by herself. But she is drawn to Taura, and seeks him out again and again -- even as she also flees and keeps her distance, not allowing him to remain with her, and especially not wanting him to see her during those transitional times.
       Taura too becomes obsessed with her, abandoning his family at a moment's notice when she's available. Not that it makes much of a difference: he's more or less estranged from his son, and his wife is busy with her own career (so busy that she didn't even come to the hospital when he had his accident). He feels guilty about his affair, but he's also overwhelmed by passion. And Mutsuko makes him a different man as well: suddenly he's able to remember or do things he hadn't in years -- like understand and speak French.
       Yamada puts an interesting spin on the idea of a doomed love affair with his premise, as Mutsuko become younger and younger. When she gets to be about four or five things get really complicated (though she made as many preparations for that stage as she could).
       The premise, of Mutsuko growing younger and younger, is preposterous, and Taura's occasional new-found abilities -- premonitions and feelings and the like -- sound fairly silly too, yet in rooting the story in the domestic, around a man clearly stuck in a major mid-life crisis and rut and his family, the romantic fantasy takes on a considerable poignancy. Mutsuko remains, in all respects, an elusive figure, and some of her demands and requests lead to Taura's personal and professional life disintegrating further (by the end he's pensioned off and his wife has told him she's going to file for divorce), but it hardly matters beside his overwhelming passion.
       This is one strange love story, and parts of it are, as written, painfully awkward, but it comes together as a whole and is, ultimately, a success, a novel that impresses more after one has put it aside than while reading it.

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Links:

I Havenít Dreamed of Flying for a While : Reviews: I Havenít Dreamed of Flying for a While - the film: Yamada Taichi: Other books by Yamada Taichi under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Yamada Taichi (山田 太一) was born in 1934 and is best known as a TV scriptwriter.

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© 2008 the complete review

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