Men Without Women: Stories by Haruki Murakami 

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

Drive My Car ★★★★☆ (4/5)

  • It wasn’t that they were especially laid back. In reality, they were probably tense too. Nevertheless, they seemed to be able to separate their tension and who they were in a natural—likely unconscious—way. They could converse and act normally even while focused on the road. As in, that belongs there and this belongs here
  • Yet he continued to return to his core principle: that, in every situation, knowledge was better than ignorance. However agonizing, it was necessary to confront the facts. Only through knowing could a person become strong.
  • But the place you return to is always slightly different from the place you left
  • If we hope to truly see another person, we have to start by looking within ourselves
  • at a certain point a lot of things didn’t seem like that big a deal anymore. Like the demon had left me all of a sudden

Yesterday ★★★☆☆ (3/5) 

  • As time passes, memory, inevitably, reconstitutes itself
  • Music has that power to revive memories, sometimes so intensely that they hurt.

An Independent Organ ★★★★★ (5/5)

  • If, for some reason, the ominous dark clouds of impending friction appeared on the horizon, he knew how to skillfully back out of the relationship, careful not to aggravate things, and also careful not to hurt the woman. He did this swiftly and naturally, like a shadow drawn up into the gathering twilight
  • His friends all insisted that, when all was said and done, having children was a wonderful thing, but he never could buy this sales pitch. They probably just wanted Tokai to shoulder the same burden they dragged around. They selfishly were convinced that everyone else in the world should be obliged to suffer the way they did.
  • He wasn’t a poor loser, had no inferiority complex or jealousy, no excessive biases or pride, no particular obsessions, wasn’t overly sensitive, had no steadfast political views
  • ‘Some people are polite, and some are quick. Each one’s a good quality to have, but most of the time quickness trumps politeness.’
  • If you took away my career as a plastic surgeon, and the happy environment I’m living in, and threw me out into the world, with no explanation, and with everything stripped away—what in the world would I be?
  • You can’t control your feelings, and it’s like some outrageous power is manipulating you
  • As long as it all makes sense, no matter how deep you fall, you should be able to pull yourself together again

Scheherazade ★★★★★ (5/5)

  • Ten years earlier, she might well have been a lively and attractive young woman, perhaps even turned a few heads. At some point, however, the curtain had fallen on that part of her life and it seemed unlikely to rise again
  • I’m not stranded on a desert island. No, he thought, I am a desert island. If he could fully grasp that concept, he could deal with whatever lay ahead. He had always been comfortable being by himself. His nerves could cope with the solitude
  • The other thing that puzzled him was the fact that their lovemaking and her storytelling were so closely linked, making it hard, if not impossible, to tell where one ended and the other began
  • She worried that the odor might fade as the days went by, but that didn’t happen. Like an undying memory of singular importance, the smell of his sweat had permeated his shirt for good.
  • Perhaps he would never see her again. That worried him. The possibility was just too real. Nothing of a personal nature—no vow, no implicit understanding—held them together. Theirs was a chance relationship created by someone else, and might be terminated on that person’s whim

Kino ★★★★☆ (4/5)

  • Among human emotions, nothing was worse than jealousy and pride, and Kino had had a number of awful experiences because of one or the other. It struck him at times that there was something about him that stirred up the dark side in other people
  • Still, Kino could detect a glint of desire in her eyes, like a faint light deep down a mineshaft
  • You’re saying that some serious trouble has occurred, not because I did something wrong but because I didn’t do the right thing?
  • He couldn’t think of anywhere he wanted to go. The world was a vast ocean with no landmarks, Kino a little boat that had lost its chart and its anchor

Samsa in Love ★★★☆☆ (3/5) 

  • The pungent fragrance recalled something to him. It did not come directly, however; it arrived in stages. It was a strange feeling, as if he were recollecting the present from the future
  • If you think of someone enough, you’re sure to meet them again

Men Without Women ★★★★☆ (4/5)

  • Then, without a word, as if he were gently placing a fragile piece of artwork on the floor, the man hung up. I stood there, in a white T-shirt and blue boxers, pointlessly clutching the phone.
  • Conversely, ever since then, M has been everywhere. I see her everywhere I go. She is part of many places, many times, many people
  • She was always traveling in her own private time zone
  • You are a pastel-colored Persian carpet, and loneliness is a Bordeaux wine stain that won’t come out. Loneliness is brought over from France, the pain of the wound from the Middle East

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