I’m a late Murakami convert. My first sample of his work – 2014’s Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – inspired a marathon of Murkami madness over the next eighteenth, solidifying my adoration of his imagination and his spare, unadorned prose. It lead to the devout proclamation: whatever Haruki Murakami writes, I will read. So when Men Without Women arrived in store, there was no pause for deliberation: I slapped my money down on the counter and slipped my copy of the short story collection into my bag. There was no doubt in my mind: my commute over the next couple of days would be a delight.
In the seven stories that comprise this collection, Murakami explores themes of adultery, friendship, alienation and sex through the perspective of emotionally isolated men. Perhaps they’re struggling in the aftermath of a faded love, unable to cope with their subsequent loneliness; perhaps they are men who’ve never experienced love, but are desperate for its touch; or men who are in love, but fear its loss, and how its annulment might ruin their lives. The women in these tales are never fully realised, almost entirely eponymous. They serve as potential saviours, or narrative devices, to demonstrate the stuntedness of the male protagonists.
Murakami’s prose is as delectable as ever, though it only serves to highlight the bleakness of most of these stories. Men Without Women is eminently readable, and rife with the author’s recurrent motifs, but lacks the sparkle, if not the general potency, of his other short stories. Of course, readers’ mileage may vary. One thing’s for certain: these are stories that beg for discussion. Add this one to your reading group list.
Format: Hardback (222mm x 144mm x 25mm)
Imprint: Harvill Secker
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 9-May-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom