Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami


In just a few sentences Murakami can bring you into a world you know nothing about, but you are ready to let him guide you as he wishes.

The first story tells about Kafuku, a successful actor, who found himself in need of a driver because a minor accident uncovered a glaucoma-caused small blind spot. Despite his reluctance to be driven by a woman, he agreed to be driven by Misaki who turned out to be an ideal driver. She was skilled and her cool distant personality allowed him to practice his lines without stress. They each tell the other their most deeply personal story. Then she reveals that he was born the same year as her father. And we learn that she was the same age as his daughter who died within days of  her birth. His story, about his relationship with his late wife, involved the revelation to Kafuku that “we men are all living with the same sort of blind spot.” So Kafuku had at least two types of blind spots.

The story “Samsa in Love” begins with this sentence:  “He woke to discover that he had undergone a metamorphosis and become Gregor Samsa.” In case you’ve forgotten who Gregor is, have a look here. Gregor was mystified to learn that he was now a human, wondering how he even knew that. He struggled with everything, beginning with the difficulty of walking on just two legs. A woman knocks at the door and Gregor has a whole new set of questions and mysteries to cope with.

Kafuku with his blind spots and Gregor with his surprise protuberance are emblematic of the problems the men in these stories have understanding themselves, and of course, women.

Haruki Murakami, Men Without Women, Alfred A. Knopf, 2017, 228 pages. Available at the UVa and public libraries and from Amazon.

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