This week, Richard from Brompton Library is reviewing Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami.
Over to Richard to tell us more!
First published in 2014, and published in English in 2017, this collection of short stories shares its title with Ernest Hemingway’s second collection. But there’s precious little male machismo to be found here in these seven short stories by Murakami. What you will find are some of those weirdly surreal conversations that recall earlier works like Norwegian Wood and After Dark. Tragedy and humor, the uncanny and the absolute ordinary go hand in hand.
The characters from these stories comprise students, ex-boyfriends, actors, bartenders, men, who, for whatever reason, find themselves alone. Take the story of Kino for example; ‘As he waited for his first customer, Kino enjoyed listening to whatever music he liked and reading books he’d been wanting to read. Like dry ground welcoming the rain, he let the solitude, silence, and loneliness soak in.’
Reading Murakami, I always get this sense of space and rumination, where you can almost catch yourself thinking.
If, like Richard, you want to be spellbound by Murakami’s enchanting literary style, check out Men Without Women from one of our library branches today.
A full list of our sites and opening times can be found here.
A married man meets a young girl who works as an advertising model and studies pantomime. They meet sometimes and go out for meals and he enjoys talking to her. One day her father dies and she asks him to look after her cat while she travels to Africa.
When she returns, she has a new boyfriend in tow, a rich young man with a European sports car. The girl and the boyfriend turn up at his house with lunch one afternoon and, after a few drinks, the young man admits to enjoying burning barns, an admission that creates an obsession in the older man.
True to his style, the story is simple with many subtle complexities and ambiguities.
Burning – a film directed by Lee Chang-Dong
In the film, the main character, now called Jongsu, is no longer an older married man but a recent graduate with no money or parental support, trying to make his way as a writer. Making him younger, adds a coming of age element that is reminiscent of Murakami’s other work such as Norwegian Wood. The relationship between Jongsu and Hai-mae is more developed and her Americanised boyfriend Ben, now a Jongsu’s peer, becomes his rival.
The location of the story has moved from Tokyo to Seoul and Paju, the small town where Jongsu grew up. Barns are now greenhouses, more appropriate to the South Korean countryside, and propaganda messages can be heard coming over the border from North Korea. At one point there is news coverage of Trump talking about America in the background, making the film relevant and contemporary, while keeping and expanding on the important elements of the story and paying a lot of respect to Murakami.
Chang-Dong has taken the story and turned it into an unsettling and mysterious film that builds into a gripping thriller.
Beautifully shot and acted with a great soundtrack.