My Thoughts About Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami (Book Review #141)

When was the last time I read a Haruki Murakami book? It’s been like ages since I read a book by my favorite author. I want to save reading the books from him because I don’t want to have that time when I have nothing to read from him anymore but at the same time I want to devour all his works too.

After reading Are You Here for What I’m Here For? by Brian Booker, I told myself I am up for another round of short story collection. Fun fact: Despite being a fan of Murakami for quite some time now this is the first short story collection by him that I read. Did it disappoint? No.

As the title suggests, the book follows stories of men in their longingness and loneliness state. This is a collection of stories about rejection and moving on. It follows men as they struggle to get their bearings back after their loved ones departed. It follows men coping with their situations while somewhat stuck in a limbo of lamentation. This is a collection of stories about men who can’t handle the situations that they are currently at. So yeah, this is a bit on the sad part of the spectrum. This book is like a book that features sad realities in the human world, fragility of the human spirit and unpredictability of the human emotions.

“So in the end maybe that’s the challenge: to look inside your own heart as perceptively and seriously as you can, and to make peace with what you find there. If we hope to truly see another person, we have to start by looking within ourselves.” – Haruki Murakami, Men Without Women

We have this man, Kafuko, who lost his wife for 20 years after a short illness being quizzed by his female driver on their way to and from his performances about his past especially the affairs of his late wife and eventually telling readers about his action of befriending a fellow actor whom he thought had a fair with his wife; a young man, Kitaru, asking his friend to date his girlfriend because he thinks that he is a good guy; a bachelor cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Tokai, with a strange habit of hooking ups with intelligent women in steady relationships but loathes attachments but who eventually fell in love with a married woman who can’t love her back; a man who received his third phone call about another ex-girlfriend who committed suicide; a young man, Habara, in confinement who receives sexual pleasures from his housekeeper and who’s after their conversations after their sex; a man, Kino, who opened a bar after his split with his wife and now being randomly visited by cats and snakes and; lastly a man who find himself transformed from an insect to a human. Despite having different backgrounds and issues, what makes them the same is the fact that they all of these men have a missing jigsaw piece in their hearts.

After reading quite a few of his books, I am only now realizing that Muramaki has knack of being observant. He was able to convey those feelings in his books and he was able to make me feel those observations with him. I believe that’s the main reason why I enjoyed this book, Murakami makes you become part of his stories by letting you be like a bystander in a certain scene, a part of the house, a grass or a tree. With all the books that I read from him, there’s no feeling of disconnection. With this book being a short story collection, the transition between stories was flawlessly done and it is as if like I was still reading just one interconnected story. Not wanting to move forward, unmotivated response to life, unreciprocated love and choosing loneliness to avoid the pain of love are the themes prevalent in this collection.

As always, Murakami’s writing is succinct. I’ve always trusted Murakami in writing about complex situations involving complex emotions and he delivered yet again in this book. And as with his previous books, this book has cats and music in it again which are already a part of his trademark.

“Dreams are the kind of things you can—when you need to—borrow and lend out.” – Haruki Murakami, Men Without Women

Though this collection evokes melancholic vibe, I see positivity in the stories. It’s a good study about how different people cope with loss and life and how they should be understood. There’s a lot to be discovered about the book’s male protagonists. You’ll question their motivations behind their actions. Each story is distinct from the other but each story values the importance of communication, communication which is a way a person presents his soul to another. Majority of people may view life as something to be enjoyed and that what keeps them moving but others find solace within their own private selves, in their nooks.

Reading a Murakami book, despite reading the blurb, is always like receiving an unsolicited gift. You always don’t know what to expect. There’s always a surprise. Like any other Murakami books, this piece has Murakami’s distinctive touch and theme: always stimulating, always strange and always dreamlike. Reading his work is always rewarding and will leave you dazed and fascinated.

Here are the other Haruki Murakami books that I read and reviewed here in my blog:

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – Review
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami – Review
The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami – Review
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami – Review
Absolutely on Music by Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa – Review

Other Haruki Murakami features that I posted here in my blog:

Book Quotes (My Top 10 Best Quotes from Haruki Murakami)


Author: Haruki Murakami
Format: Hardbound
Source: Bought
Release Year: May 2017
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
No. of Pages: 240 pages

About the Author:

Murakami Haruki is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described as ‘easily accessible, yet profoundly complex’.

Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and he is often distinguished from other Japanese writers by his Western influences.

Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Yoko. His first job was at a record store, which is where one of his main characters, Toru Watanabe in Norwegian Wood, works. Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened the coffeehouse ‘Peter Cat’ which was a jazz bar in the evening in Kokubunji, Tokyo with his wife.

Many of his novels have themes and titles that invoke classical music, such as the three books making up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: The Thieving Magpie (after Rossini’s opera), Bird as Prophet (after a piano piece by Robert Schumann usually known in English as The Prophet Bird), and The Bird-Catcher (a character in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute). Some of his novels take their titles from songs: Dance, Dance, Dance (after The Dells’ song, although it is widely thought it was titled after the Beach Boys tune), Norwegian Wood (after The Beatles’ song) and South of the Border, West of the Sun (the first part being the title of a song by Nat King Cole).

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