I finished this book about a month ago, but life has been hectic and I haven’t had the time that’s necessary to reflect on this awesome novel. This is one of my Japanese Literature Challenge 4 novels, and I am so glad I choose it. It’s true to Murakami’s style and, at the same time as being chaotic, bizarre and surreal, I felt that there was a message in it for me.
There are many excellent reviews about the content of this novel, some include:
Ben, who review it at GoodRead, states that the novel is “set in Japan in the 1980s, at the height of the country's economic rise, it tells of a solitary magazine writer who suddenly has a strong urge to search for his old girlfriend”. So, given the story is set in a profiting Japanese Economy, where this journalist could have anything he wanted, I have taken away these messages from the story.
The narrator tells us he’s ‘over’ his job, he describes it as just like ‘shovelling snow’, repetative, boring and anything he produces will eventually just disappear anyway. He’s discontent with his lot in life, although not able to put his finger on it, unable to actually say he’s discontent. Other reviewers noted that he was represented as a happy go lucky kind of guy, able to take what came his way with relative ease. However, I still pictured him as discontent. I think that’s why he had dreams that were focused on ‘searching’ – for the girlfriend, for the mysterious floor at the hotel, for the sheepman...
I wondered if the narrator was in fact searching for a deeper meaning to life. He’s divorced, lost his girlfriend (in Wild Sheep Chase) and doesn’t get a great deal of meaning from his work. He is amused by the lack of meaning and substance in his movie star friends life, but envious of the opportunities that his friend gets.
He spends most of the story in search of something, which I think is meaning, by fostering a ‘big brother’ relationship with a young girl – perhaps trying to see if ‘family’ is what he wants. He reconnects with his movie start high school friend, and searchers for meaning through pleasure – driving the Ferrari, seeing call girls, and drinking at fancy places. He wonders if there’s meaning in building a new relationship and looks towards the hotel receptionist for company.
If, as Ben says, the novel is set in an economically strong Japan, then perhaps money isn’t providing the narrator with what he’s longing for. Perhaps there’s something very familiar to us about his journey?? Have we not been persuaded to think that with money we will be happy? That our job is our identity? That we’re of no value if we’re not in a relationship? Even with these things, the Narrator was not content – he was driven in search of the real meaning in his life.
Perhaps the message is Dance, Dance and keep on Dancing until you find what it is your looking for.