Men Without Women | Haruki Murakami

Congratulations to the Women who don't have to deal with these Men anymore

This collection comprises seven short stories centred around men that have in some way or other lost their wives or partners. Now these men without women are struggling to move on. Sometimes they are lost in grief, sometimes they are looking for a form of closure. Regrettably, only a couple of stories can transcend being simple sob stories of men wallowing in self-pity.

Yesterday and An Independent Organ are very straight-forward in their approach to the topic. In the former two 20-year-old men are navigating their first relationships and breakups, while the latter is about a doctor in his fifties falling into depression about an affair not working out. All three of these men, not just the two 20-year-olds, are portrayed as emotionally immature and naïve to the point of making the reader cringe.

The story Kino tries to construct a metaphor where a man that's just up and left after finding out that his wife had an affair is haunted by some mysterious force. Could it be… his unprocessed grief and hurt? (Yes.)

The two stories Men Without Women and Samsa In Love1 leave more questions unanswered than these previous examples. Through this they succeed in letting the reader explore loss and grief on a more personal level and bringing in their own feelings about the topic.

Lastly, the stories Drive My Car and Sheherazade have both been reworked into the excellent film Drive My Car (2021). The first story provides the protagonist, who suddenly loses his wife to cancer and—rather than having to deal with sadness—is left looking for closure. The second story—through a framing device—provides the story of a 17-year-old girl repeatedly breaking into the house of her crush.

Both of these stories are more nuanced and interesting than most of the rest found in this collection, but the film greatly succeeds in adding even more nuance and interesting layers.

In conclusion, this collection is only able to provide the reader with a very narrow peek at grief and loss as it pertains to relationships. It often does not even leave enough room for the reader to project their own feelings and ideas into the space between the lines.


[1] Also found in the collection Desire.

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