Book Review: Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Men Without Women

A suite of light and airy dreamscapes from the master.

Usually Murakami’s majesterial and delicate prose is coupled with narrative heft. His novels are usually weighty and imperious so as to provide an anchor of substance to the strands of silk he weaves.

Here the silk is untethered from the earth, leaving each of the stories to hang on the wind, moving and swaying to the breath of meaning as it passes. So what does that mean?

Murakami’s narratives are often dreamlike, David-Lynch-esque strands of DNA that coil around each other to create the whole, but here that’s not the case. Each story, ostensibly about different types of men who, for some reason or another, find themselves “without women” and learn, or discover, what that means, with individual and universal secrets that lie within the human heart abound.

My favourite story of the collection of seven was probably Kitu, whose titular bar – opened after a spectacularly un-acrimonious divorce – becomes a metaphor for his heart, by surreal way of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, a disappearing cat, and lots of snakes. It pushes you in the direction of the articulation of meaning, which all the stories do here.

But all of the stories capture a sense, a feeling, a meditation, a glimpse through a keyhole that provides a crystal-clear image of a partial-reality which hints at something much wider.

If it doesn’t deliver the full, three-course satisfaction of one of his novels, MWW does demonstrate how powerful and light the short story format can be when in the hands of a master.

Published by Dan Jones

I'm a science fiction writer and podcaster. My debut novel Man O’War was published in 2018 by Snowbooks, and I’ve had a few short stories published here and there. I also host Chronscast, the official podcast of SFF Chronicles, the world's largest science-fiction and fantasy community. Away from writing I work for the UK Space Agency on a programme of space robotics for advanced satellite and planetary exploration technologies. All of which comes in rather handy when coming up with new ideas for science fiction stories.

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