I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Mannen Zonder Vrouw (Men Without Women) by Haruki Murakami
Published by Atlas Contact on March 1st 2016 (first published 2014)
Genres: Japanese literature
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Like everyone else I was extremely curious about Murakami’s new short story collection, Men Without Women. I prefer my Murakami in English, although the Dutch translations are in a way superior because they are more true to the original, but as of yet there is no news on the publication date for the English edition of this book.
So when I got the chance to receive the Dutch one from the publisher back in January, I grabbed the chance. The following review is a translation of my Dutch review of the book, but I hope it’ll be interesting for those who are looking forward to the new book. No spoilers!
The new Murakami is a collection of short stories and quite thematic this time: like the title suggests, all stories are about men without a woman. The first story, Drive My Car, made me doubt if I was going to like these stories though. Because to be quite honest, I was never a big fan of The Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage. Give me the unexplainable, the fantastic, the talking cats, any day.
Thankfully, Yesterday gave this book a typical Murakami-twist. For the enthusiastic Murakami reader it is quite clear that the men – and the woman too, for that matter – are clearly Murakami’s creations. Their characters vary from vaguely normal to completely eccentric. Throw in some jazz music, cats and cafés, passive men with vague life stories and unreachable girls, open endings, and you’ve got another steady Murakami. But then shorter.
The men are the main characters in these stories, but the (often absent) women are just as important. Although of course we always get to see them through a filter, whether the point of view of the men in these stories, or Murakami’s filter.
My favourite story in this collection is without a doubt Kino, purely because I am fascinated (or rather, obsessed) with the way Murakami manages to put the same character in so many different books and short stories, settings, situations, but then each time in a slightly different way. A déjà vu without it feeling like a déjà vu. Another fresh new interpretation.
Then there is Sheherazade, perhaps the only story where the woman is the active factor. Samsa in Love jumps out as well, but for a different reason. Funnily enough that’s the least Murakami-ish story in the collection.
Quite a few of these short stories have already appeared in the New Yorker. If you have already read these, and you are planning to read the book in English, I must be fair and say I am not sure if it will be worth it to buy this short story collection (if it is ever published).
If you are planning to read this in Dutch, then yes, it’s definitely worth buying the book. The translations by Jacques Westerhoven are impeccable as usual, and his translations seem to fit short stories even better.