Men Without Women in what it promised to be - vague, strange, dark, forbidding, foreboding. Every story ends with a comma, never a full stop - in a euphemistic sense that is. The story has not a definite end nor a definite beginning. It could have started anywhere and ended anywhere. If one were to shuffle the passages, began where it ended and ended where it began, it would make no difference to the story. It would still flow and meander through the mind, forming its own path, its own story, its own meaning.
Here we meet Scheherzade, as mysterious as the heroin of Arabian Nights, who makes love and then tells a story, and then becomes the story herself. We meet Kino, who does not know whether he is in love or not, Samsa, who is positively in love and then positively heart broken... so much that he can become the oblivion he wishes to become. Each story of a man, a woman in his life, an inability to hold the woman he so dearly wants to hold and then regret. At the end, there is regret.
The reference to Japanese life is refreshing. Here is a glimpse of another culture, another people, another way of thinking, another life. One has read too much English fiction set in America or Britain, and lately India. But the men and the women... they are the same. Nothing dramatic happens, yet one feels the joy and the sorrow, the latter more often than the former.
Murakami writes not for the young. Not for those who have not seen pain and loss in relationships yet. The men in his stories have lived their lives, have experienced love and loss and are now at a stage where they can look back at their lives, the women they had and grieve about what could have been but isn't.