14 thoughts on “Men Without Women – Haruki Murakami


    An actor learning the lines of Uncle Vanya and with a blind spot of eye and spirit hires a woman the same age as his own dead daughter would have been as a chauffeur for his car, while he plays Beethoven string quartets on the car radio. And he tells her his home truths about his own dead wife who was disloyal to him and died of uterine cancer, and the men she had affairs with, one of whom he befriended – bypassing a grey skinny cat —
    Story started with sexist views of differences between male and female drivers, and stage acting as a withdrawal from self for a while and when returning to the self find it a different self to drive, sometimes a tractor with huge wheels.
    I drove this story for a while…



    The page numbers are gradually sliding down the pages story by story, so this one is lower than the page numbers yesterday… A story of two young Japanese men, disarmingly naive and attritionally deadpan, with a dream recounted by the girl friend whom they share (compare the driving conceit in the story above), a dream about a moon of ice seen in the sea, melting… and 16 years later the last page of this story recounts what happened in this story as if I wasted yesterday reading it at all! — “All I recall now are fragments”, but it seems more beautiful than how I have expressed it, the discussions of young sex and ‘going all the way’, young ideals, and discussion on the protocols of Japanese dialects as a cultural exchange, and creating nonsense words as if by Lennon for McCartney’s eponymous song of yesterday, but not forgetting the Woody Allen film as well as the studying of a coffee spoon “like a museum creator scrutinising an artefact from an Egyptian tomb”, much like me studying the yet unpercolated fragments of this story, and thus of this whole collection, into a gestalt for tomorrow…


    Strangely in tune with the previous two stories…
    “It didn’t particularly bother him that these women made love to men other than him.”
    The story of Dr. Tokai, plastic surgeon, that full stop after the ‘Dr.’ as a sort of buffer against complete change to someone else altogether by such slow-motion plastic means, thus adopting an independent organ to insulate the lies that lie within the self (an independent feature, by the way, that he attributes solely to women by dint of such a feature within himself!), and, yes, he had this feature, too. His easy love affairs with women, married women or not, until finally, as the end of such plastic surgery upon his own soul’s body, he falls into love beyond that aforementioned buffer stop towards a lethal downhill anorexic lovesickness, even insulating himself from his own trusty Goto secretary, a man who perhaps loved him as well as kept his boss’s business and love affairs like an air-traffic controller in a spiritual squash game, and also insulating himself from the author’s male narrator who is writing this about both Tokai and Goto, writing this story about them by using his own independent organ of lies that he self-illusionally calls ‘gestalt’, a pattern of insulated lies that has even permeated the racket of politics today, even reaching as far as heads of state, whether male or female, with no gender blame at all, as I, now, too, by similar means, write this critical essay about what he the narrator or author wrote as the portrait of a once fictional character, whereby any lies in such a portrait are part of its independent truth…

    “But if you slowly take a few steps back (making certain beforehand, mind you, that you’re not standing in front of a cliff) and view this portrait from a distance, I’m sure you’ll understand that the veracity of each tiny detail really isn’t critical.”

  4. Another story in this book with sex as a duty to another…


    “I couldn’t walk that tightrope indefinitely.”

    Somehow, sex as a processing service from a middle-aged woman support worker or nurse for a man who has disabilities that prevent him from going out into the world, yet there is a tension… because it is also a sexual act that is meaningful to them both.
    As with the eponymous lady in the title, she tells him stories, after lovemaking, stories for their own sake, not to keep herself alive but perhaps to keep him alive, keep him going till the next time. She tells him one tale of when she was a 17 year old and became a Love Burglar in a house when it was empty, a house where a boy with whom she was obsessed lived, and she exchanged personal things, left something such as a tampon, and took something like his favourite pencil, a balance of tension, till, eventually, she took his sweaty T shirt, without leaving something of her own — which meant she was now a real burglar, and we can see her as the dirty fetichist she actually might have been. This story is an erotic tightrope between her reincarnation from or to a gently swaying lamprey waiting for a trout to pass by and for her then to rise up and trap it — a tightrope between that and something we never quite reach as the containing frame of a story reaches the ultimate anti-climax, a sexual as well as a literary non-climax.
    The tightrope loosened beyond integrity as such.
    This interpretation of mine balances upon one of the framing story’s threads of tension or intention, and stems from the chance synchronicity of reading THIS story called ‘wires’ earlier today.
    Perhaps on another day, I might have trapped a different thread, a different meaning floating above my head!

  5. Pingback: For half-crowds only… | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews (from 2008)

  6. KINO

    “…slow and languorous, and it was hard to read anything…”

    The novelette of Kino, opening a bar after finding his wife with another man, and there are many recurrent leitmotifs and wordsets such as the meaning of the name of the man who sporadically comes to Kino’s new bar and has the same drink and reads a large book, the stray cat, the woman with the cigarette burns on her, the man she was with who once goes far away, Kino’s going far away, too, as aresult of the man with the book’s advice, the ‘ambiguous ambiguity’, the gap in the room of small space where Kino goes into abeyance with rain on its windows and relentless knocking at its door, the snakes that came to the bar’s area and the heart they had lost or left in their nest….and I have no real heart to tell you any more details about this novelette that is as slow and languorous as the vocal jazz LPs that Kino played in his bar. You simply need to go far away, too, and read it. OK?


    “Unable to withstand the pain any longer, Samsa put his elbows on the mattress and, bit by bit, pushed himself up.”

    Although obviously unintended by Murakami, the woman who mended locks seemed a perfect partner for someone with a name assonant with that of Samson. I hope it works out for them.
    You equally obviously already know this famous story, so I shall leave it at that, well, other than to mention that war and occupation seemed to have come to this city where Samsa lived, but, with his feelings still mixed up, Samsa’s fear of birds attacking is really a hope for them to do so, I guess, judging by the history currently passing through my own real-time. And as to the ‘hunchback’ locksmith’s uncomfortable brassiere and Samsa’s own uncomfortable spindle and tumblers, well, please draw your own conclusions…

    My earlier review of THE METAMORPHOSIS by Franz Kafka here: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/the-big-book-of-classic-fantasy/#comment-964

  8. Pingback: Hairlocks | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews (from 2008)



    The page numbers and story titles have now reached the lowest level!
    Ironically, this narration itself reaches the only uncertainty possible, by not reaching its deepest levels. A Zeno’s Paradox. A half eraser, ‘a half-read book’, ‘half-dry stockings’, halfway between metaphor and simile, between a normal ‘independent organ’ and a unicorn’s horn, between a squid and an ammonite, between a sailor’s dirge and a landward song, yes, between a man and woman. We ‘Men Without Women’ are perhaps creatures of the deep, ever only half alive. We men as sole orientation of self have now lost any compass we once had, as the narrator is unexpectedly told by a man’s voice on the telephone in the small hours that M, an unrequited love from schooldays, had killed herself — with Kino’s backdrop of Music later becoming like a Metaphor? No, the M was for Man himself. That Muzak of Self in the Space between Similes. Half-erased, then half of the remainder erased, then half of the new remainder erased, and so on, ad infinitum, null Immortalis.
    The voice on the phone was his own, I guess. Having sailed half way round the world to find her without knowing he was looking for her!
    An unreliable narrator. A deficient omniscience.
    A lonely reader. Probably.


  10. Pingback: Men Without Women – the story | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews (from 2008)

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