This collection of short stories is remarkable. Haruki Murakami is a classic storyteller who allows the reader to fully indulge in his words within just a few pages, and any fan of Murakami could recognize his work within seconds. “Men Without Women” has seven stories of men who’ve experienced the loss of a woman, love of a woman or just moments with a woman that left an impression on him.
Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different man, and you are dropped off at a point in time with little context and no knowledge of setting. By the end of the story, you feel an extraordinary connection to each character and a sense of bewilderment for knowing nothing of the background or resolution.
With little knowledge of the before and after, you’ll still be satisfied. Murakami’s descriptive nature is encompassed in every line; even if the character is immoral, you feel an affinity for the man by the last page. Murakami concludes with a seventh story that is an emotional reflection about loneliness and how women shape the lives of men in big or small ways — demonstrating that without women, life isn’t the same. While existential toward the end, the book is a perfect balance of intuitive banter and youthful delight.
A few points of the book that resonated were the ways in which Murakami could invoke strong pathos in a few simple lines of text. I think it’s obvious the storytelling is superior to a lot of authors, but this being the first book of his I’ve read — I must admit was taken aback.
One story that struck me as the most bizarre was of a man that must have been recently reincarnated, confused and discovering a whole new world. There were so many factors in this short chapter that had me yearning for more. It was imperative to me that this story reveal all the facts. Why were there military tanks outside? What was the locked room upstairs? Did the hunchback and the man fall in love? It was endless. That’s how Murakami is, and I learned to respect the story he gave and take what he wanted to give. I propose the same approach to future readers; sometimes all the details aren’t necessary.
Overall, the whimsical philosophy of Murakami is unmatched. If you’re a fan of short stories and descriptive fiction, then “Men Without Women” will not disappoint. I’m already prepared to dive into another Murakami classic.