Book Review—Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

In a age where conflicting ideas of feminism are a cause of argument and debate, the book ‘Men Without Women’ , comes across as a unique work filled with warmth and empathy. It takes into account the vulnerabilities of both genders in its short stories and weaves interesting narratives around its characters.

Though the title of Murakami’s short story collection exudes a sense of dependence of men over women, it is a sign of the unfinished task before the male gender. Men have, and in all probability never ‘understood’ women. The innumerable twists and turns in every relationship that are generally experienced by men are a testimony to this claim, though someone from the opposite gender may claim the same.

Yes, all seven short stories are filled with confused and dazed men, along with mysterious female characters. What amazes me is the depth and variety that Murakami brings to the table in every short story. In his longer novels, every Murakami fan would have noticed that he takes time to build and evolve his characters as the story progresses. In this book, one can see how he manages  to do that in a short story format where a writer has to finish off his business in a shorter time span.

Quite frankly, I don’t want to reveal the plot of any of the short stories, but I would love to share some quotes which I found endearing/ interesting/amusing.

“A gentlemen doesn’t talk much about the taxes he paid, or the women he sleeps with”

“Most of the women with other boyfriends would, at a certain point in the relationship would say,” I’m very sorry, but I can’t see you anymore. I am getting married soon.” In most cases the decision to get married came just before they were about to turn 30 or 40. Just like calenders that sell well at the end of the year.”

“The most he could do was to create a place where his heart – devoid now of any depth or weight – could be tethered, to keep it from wandering aimlessly”

However, the most interesting of all short stories in the book was ‘ Samsa in Love’ a rehash of the character Gregor Samsa who appears in the book ‘Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka. This demonstrates the fact that Murakami’s literature is still influenced by Kafka.

I loved Murakami as a short story writer. And in all probability, every Murakami lover will like this book too. Heck, how can anybody not like him. I couldn’t be friends with such people.

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