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Men Without Women : A ‘Murakami-esque’ collection about loneliness, men and women

28th July, 2017

Book Review : Men without Women by Haruki Murakami

Men Without Women is a collection of seven short stories by Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen. All the stories have a similar tone of melancholy. I usually enjoy Murakami’s surreal stories more than his realistic ones and I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed both kinds in this collection.

A pinch of loneliness

There is a strong sense of loneliness in all the stories. The men are often searching for answers for questions that trouble their mind. They are incomplete without the women, or maybe just changed from what they used to be.

A bit of women

Women are present, often like wraiths, in the book. They take different forms – wives, ex-wives, lovers, friends or memories. They masquerade as symbols of regrets and grief and sustain themselves with the unrest in the minds of men.

A bit of women

All the stories have the usual characteristic traits of a Murakami novel. They are slow paced, detailed and pensive and marked with music, quiet moments and conversations with self. If there is anything ‘Murakami-esque’ I missed in the collection, it would be the slow process of cooking that Murakami often includes in his books.

Book Review : Men without Women by Haruki Murakami

Stories

Interestingly, the title story Men Without Women is my least favourite. I enjoyed all the other stories in the book, which is impressive for a short story collection.

Drive my Car is about an actor who employs a woman driver. He talks to her about befriending the man his wife had an affair with, to know what he himself lacked.

Yesterday tells the story of Kitaru who wants his friend to date his girlfriend. This story had an interesting structure as well, since we get to know more about the narrator from his friend’s dialogues and not from the man himself.

An Independent organ is about a doctor who is happy with casual relationships with women until he falls in love.

Schezarade was a beautiful read. It is the story of   a man who seems to enjoy the stories of the woman with whom he has sex with more than the time he spends with her. Like the famous Arabian nights and One Hundred nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg, the woman always leaves her stories unfinished. There is always a sense of anticipation in the air whether the story will ever be finished.

Kino is about a man dealing with his divorce and meeting a new woman. It reminded me of The Wind up Bird Chronicle, which is one of my favourites by Murakami. Unexpected things happen, some of which have no answer.

Samsa in Love was another enjoyable read. A person wakes up as Sansa and tries to make sense of the world he is in – understanding what to wear and how to communicate. I loved this one.

Final Verdict :

A typical Murakami collection of short stories. Reading it was pure joy.

Title : Men Without Women
Author : Haruki Murakami
Publisher : Harvill Secker
Publication: 2017
Language : English
Pages : 228
Rating : 4/5

Disclaimer : Much thanks to Penguin India and Flipkart for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

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Men Without Women
This Post Has 35 Comments
  1. Thank you for this detailed review, Resh. I am surely going to read this book. I am amazed that his heroes are not cooking spaghetti, which is a prime motif in his books, isn’t it? ‘Schezarade’ was published by The Newyorker a couple of years ago, if I’m not wrong. That story was dream-like. I now feel the taste of this collection. And as always, the pictures are gorgeous. 🙂

    1. It was really a nice one to read. I read it over last weekend and it really helped me relax. Quiet, slow prose and the perfect Murakami trance. I was so looking forward to the cooking descriptions too. But sadly that wasn’t the case. Hope you pick it up soon.

  2. Amazing Review! Haruki Murakami is my absolute FAVORITE author of all time! My first read from him was Kafka on the Shore and it still remains my favorite! His writing style is so surreal and, I admit, is at times hard to discern, but his evocative imagination never has failed to blow me away.
    I bough Men Without Women at the beginning of the month and still have yet to read it, but I’m definitely looking forward to starting it!
    I look forward to reading more from you in the future… Happy Reading! 🙂

  3. I have read some of his and enjoy the dreamy and disjointed world (though my favourite book of his is his one about running!). I think these were quite early stories that have only now been translated, though I might be wrong there, in which case maybe he hadn’t got into the cooking yet!

  4. I’ve had this sitting on my shelf for several weeks now but not yet picked it up. Usually I like Murakami but had been unsure of this for the very reason that it’s the surreal and imaginative side of Murakami and was unsure the realist stuff would be for me! But your review suggests it’s strong all round so will pick this up before the summer is over!

  5. Some of these stories are really quite original and intriguing. Would love to find out what messages they each convey. I’m glad to hear that his style is still present in this short story collection. I haven’t heard about this book too much, but when I did, disappointment seemed to be the highlight of other readers experience. Thanks for sharing! 😀

    1. I can see why some readers were disappointed. I heard these are early stories by Murakami. So even though they have the same theme/charm as usual Murakami novels, they do not have everything we expect. For example I was surprised to see that there was absolutely no mention of cooking and enjoying food in any of the short stories. Food is a constant factor in the newer Murakami novels.

  6. I’ve been very apprehensive about diving into Murakami’s books. I’ve heard they’re hard to get into. Not sure where to start. Still, I’ll give this one some consideration! good review!!

    I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. If you’ve done it before I wouldn’t be surprised and you don’t have to do it again. Great posts and I love your pictures!

    https://thebooklovingpharmacist.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/the-versatile-blogger-award/

    Cheers!

    1. I hope you will get to read Murakami soon. If you are someone who likes realistic fiction more, Norwegian wood would be a good start. My fav is The wind up bird chronicle which is magical realism. Thanks for the tag too. 🙂

  7. I mist admit that I haven’t read Murakami’s work before but it sounds so wonderfully multi layered and short stories are a great introduction to authors aren’t they. He sounds delightfully bizarre and deeply profound. I can’t wait to explore his work. Incredible review Resh darling, so glad you enjoyed this one ❤

  8. I’m a bit hit or miss with Murakami, so I suspect that I would click with some of these stories but not others. That said, the feeling of loneliness definitely appeals as I often find myself drawn to stories with a touch of melancholy about them.

  9. Hmmm. Not sure I am a Murakami fan. He is very popular in France, and that may be for a reason: I feel he drops the story at the end (Typically French: no beginning nor ending, probably what makes him popular there). “The end of time” (not sure that is the English title) left me frustrated. I felt he abandoned the story at the end. 🙂 Personal views. Maybe I should give him another chance. (And yes, pace could be sped up a tad)
    Thank you as usual for opening our reading eyes.

    1. That’s true. That is Murakami’s style of writing. he leaves loose ends and unanswered questions; so I think you might not like his other books either. But no harm if you want to give him another try.

      1. True on all counts. Thing is, as I write myself, (And take great care about the ending, amongst other things) I tend to become critical. But then who am I to judge? I will give him another try. There are a couple more of his books on the shelf.

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