I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “Men Without Women,” a short story collection by Haruki Murakami! I’ve read a book of his before called “Kafka on the Shore,” so it’s nice to come back to Murakami’s writing. Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all.
Marked by the same wry humor that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic.”
Murakami’s writing style in this collection is pretty similar to “Kafka on the Shore,” given the philosophical moments that the characters have in each short story, and all of these moments make sense individually in their respective short stories. One story, “An Independent Organ,” literally shows a character becoming ‘nothing’ after falling deeply in love and then having the realization of being used by his lover, while the protagonist (who was a friend of his), ponders over the whole thing. “Scheherezade” shows a very unconventional relationship of sorts, and how it affects both partners individually and when they’re together. It’s kind of hard to explain without spoiling the whole story, unfortunately.
“Kino” was my favourite story out of the whole collection, centering around the titular character moving on from a marriage that didn’t go so well and trying to rediscover himself again, in a sense. This story, as well as the other pieces of Murakami’s collection as well as “Kafka on the Shore,” tend to focus on the internal conflict, and how the characters deal with it. Sometimes these inner conflicts can be hard to relate to, but I still found it enjoyable to read overall.
In comparison, the “Gregor Samsa” story was easily the weirdest and least enjoyable out of all of the short stories. It took me a few moments to realize that this was in the perspective of a man who had once been an insect, and then his interactions with the hunchbacked woman was a bit…weird. It’s hard not to read this and feel a bit unsettled to the point of it not being enjoyable to read.
Overall, I would rate this collection 4 out of 5 stars. Because the stories are all short stories, the prose is much tighter and more to-the-point compared to “Kakfa on the Shore,” which I really liked.