Review: Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami - 6/10*
Men Without Women is a collection of stories about despairing men and loneliness; it depicts men who try to cope with the sorrows of life after their loved one has departed from them. Unable to move on, the men spend the rest of their days lamenting what they will never again feel.
So this is a sad collection, one that captures the harsh realities of human experience, at least, the experience some people will ultimately feel in the face of rejection. The feelings the men have here are not needy or creepy towards the women in question. This certainly isn’t a collection about desperate men. What we have instead is successful men, often those who are married or charming with the ladies, who lose their loved one or perhaps find her for the first time. They then have to get on with their loves in the wake of such a thing.
Not an easy task for sure. Some have different coping strategies varying in different levels of extremity. One man simply dies, unable to eat anymore or muster the will to live, he slowly perishes and wastes away to nothing as he realises his love never felt the same way about him. What’s surprising, and perhaps a truism, is how easy it is for such an experience to break a man. Again, these men are not emotionally fragile or unhinged; they are relatively normal people who simply get overwhelmed by emotions that they cannot control or predict. Love is never easy and unreciprocated love is agony.
But don’t some people have the strength to carry on?
However, despite the harsh experience the men have here, I wanted to see a little bit more positivity. Some people, men or women, will find themselves in very similar situations in life, but they do not simply lay down and die. They get on with it; they keep going. Life does not fit into a neat little box. We don’t always get what we want, and simply giving up is not the answer. We have one life, and despite how painful our own experience can be, there is always a reason to carry on. If you’re not living for yourself, then live for other people.
As ever Murakami’s prose is precise with the ability to handle such complex emotions. And he has tapped into something here, something true to life, but not everybody will react in such a way. We must move forward no matter how hard it may seem. At times I found myself wanting to give the men a good hard slap; they surely needed it: they needed a motivation injection or something. As important as it is to find a partner in life, it is not the thing that defines life or success.
This book is certainly worth a read, though it falls short of its potential.