Seven delightful and idiosyncratic stories about isolated men and their particularized relationship with or without a woman – witty, moving, unpredictable and a pleasure to read

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MEN WITHOUT WOMEN

BY HARUKI MURAKAMI

228 pages

Haruki Murakami has written seven delightful and imaginative stories about isolated men, and their particularized relationship with or without a woman. During a time when we are all coping with our own individual experiences of isolation, the Den loved these idiosyncratic snapshots of lonely men and their varying and unusual connection with a female presence in their lives. The stories are moving, witty, often dark and unpredictable – perfect for those of us who are currently finding it hard to jump into a big read.

An old-timer actor confides in his young female chauffeur, an exemplary plastic surgeon is overcome with love sickness, a misunderstood and unfulfilled youthful relationship and whether it be through a gift of storytelling or running a jazz bar with a mysterious guest, these wonderfully eclectic reads are a joy.

It is not always just the man we hear about, Scheberazade recalls breaking and entering into the house of a boy at school who she was besotted with but who never noticed her. She takes one of his pencils and hides a tampon in return in one of his drawers. This glimpse into her adolescence is funny, dark and you long to hear more.

The Den found the last two stories the most “off the wall.” Samsa in Love is Kafka’s Metamorphosis in reverse. In the final title story Men Without Women (the same title incidentally used by Ernest Hemingway for his book of short stories) our nameless married man receives a phone call at 1 am from a stranger announcing the death of his wife. The woman was an old girlfriend, only it turns out this woman was the third woman he’d gone out with who’d killed herself – as he himself observes, “an extremely high fatality rate.”

The seven short stories have been beautifully translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen so none of the nuanced humour or surrealism has been lost. Overall, a pleasure to read.

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