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Haruki Murakami: ダンス・ダンス・ダンス (Dance Dance Dance)

Writing about 世界の終りとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド (Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World) I said Many writers have just one book in them. They write many books but all are variations of the same book. Fortunately, this is far from being the case with Murakami. While some of the same themes and style may re-occur, each book is totally original. Perhaps I was too hasty. His heroes tend to be loners, in an apparently conventional job (at least by the standards of the world in which they live), get involved with a mysterious woman and various characters straight out of American hard-boiled detective novels, have to go on a mysterious quest (of whose nature they are generally unsure and which often involve supernatural elements) but end up with a nice girl. And here we are again.

Our unnamed hero is a writer of PR fluff and low-end magazine articles. He is divorced, thirty-four and lives alone. He has few friends. One key thing happened to him. He met a high-class prostitute in Sapporo, who, he later finds out, is called Kiki. She took him to a run-down hotel called The Dolphin where they stayed for a week of passion. She then disappeared. Since then he has been dreaming about the Hotel, about Kiki and about the Sheep Man. The Sheep Man is a man dressed in sheepskin who seems to have some idea of what is going on. Early on in this novel, our hero decides to return to the Dolphin to see if he can track down Kiki. However, the Dolphin is not what it was. It has been completely rebuilt and the owner has disappeared. More to the point, no-one at the hotel seems to know (or be willing to say) what happened to the old hotel and the owner. Only later does the receptionist tell him of a magazine article that might explain what happened and of a mysterious event. The mysterious event occurred when the receptionist (also unnamed) was going to the employees’ room but when she stepped out of the lift, she found herself in complete darkness (the hotel had emergency generators) and saw a mysterious light. On hearing a noise, she panicked and escaped. She has since been unable to find this floor.

From there our hero is caught in a strange mystery, involving Kiki. He also finds the mysterious floor, where he meets the Sheep Man (who tells him to dance (hence the title which, incidentally, is the title of a Beach Boys song) and to connect more with people). His quest involves a former school-friend who is now a film star, a thirteen-year girl, daughter of a fashion photographer and a writer called Hiraku Makimura, a very thinly disguised anagram of Haruki Murakami, who seems to see things, various high-class prostitutes, a one-armed American Japanese-speaking poet and the receptionist. He travels to Hawaii, gets strong-armed by cops, has sex, eats interesting food, gets connected and gets the girl. It is all very well told, keeps you guessing to the end and also is just supernatural enough to be interesting without being silly.

Publishing history

First published by Kodansha, Tokyo in 1988 in Japanese
First English translation in 1994 by Kodansha