I enjoy Murakami. I’m usually not a fan of magical realism, I don’t read many fantasies, but somehow I can pass by the weirdness that he always weaves through even the most mundane of stories. The first book I read by Haruki, 1Q84, confounded me with it’s ending. All that magic, the little people, the alternative reality, all of it was left unexplained. The mystery completely unsolved.
But after reading several interviews given by the Author, I realised that his take on mystery informs the stories. Mystery is an ever-present quality of life, and most often it goes unexplained, and so he uses mystery as a literary device to point to the uniqueness or importance of everyday occurrences. The mystery is left as a mystery. Going into a story knowing that this will be the case, the expectation of resolution is not a hindrance to the enjoyment of the story— you get what you get and you can’t be upset.
Men Without Women is a collection of short stories. It is not a political statement; Murakami is not mansplaining feminism.
It is a collection of stories that highlights the aftermath of having lost a woman you have loved. The last story in the book, for which the book was named, explains it like this:
“In any case, that’s how you become Men Without Women. Before you even know it. And once you’ve become Men Without Women, loneliness seeps deep down inside your body, like a red-wine stain on a pastel carpet. No matter how many home ec books you study, getting rid of that stain isn’t easy. The stain might fade a bit over time, but it will still remain, as a stain, until the day you draw your final breath.”
Short story collections, for me, are usually at about a forty percent enjoyment rate. I enjoy reading just less than half the stories in the collection, and the rest are just so-so. I enjoyed every story in this collection. After the initial story (which always sets the tone, and teaches you how the author wants you to read the rest), I thought, “Well, they’ll go downhill from here,” which they didn’t. Each consecutive story became the favourite.
Almost all of them had a story within a story, a touch of strangeness, and an affair.
The story I enjoyed the most, Samsa In Love, with a nod to Kafka, was laugh out loud funny, and the story I most wanted to keep on reading. The woman in that story was also a real cracker of a character. MORE PLEASE!
I would recommend this to men who fantasise about what their life would be like without their significant other. Also, for men who like weird shit.
I recommend this for women who like to read.