Fed up of dog related books? Are you a cat lover who is not appreciated because the world is gaga over dogs and their loyalty whereas cats are consigned to a manipulative caricature?
Well I am!!
I am a default cat lover since the time we got a pet cat quite out of pity. From then on, I have loved my own cat and cats in general to death. So when I came across the novel, The Guest Cat, by Takashi Hiraide on Amazon at a decent rate, I instantly bought it since it fed my two interests: cats and my nascent interest in Japanese literature.
Translated into English by Eric Selland, the story is a simple one about a couple who sort of adopt a cat but do not own her. It traces their relation with the cat while also commenting on other aspects of Japan.
Chibi, the cat, comes into their lives unexpectedly when they move into a small guestroom next to a bungalow in Tokyo in 1988. Chibi has her own quirky characteristics that the narrator describes at length. Chibi comes and goes freely into their modest abode, sets up a routine of staying in their house at night and leaving in the mornings to accompany her actual owners’ son to say goodbye.
Against this backdrop, the couple themselves go through their own daily lives and jobs. The woman works at a publishing house and the man quits his job at a publishing agency to write his own stories.
What stands out however is how the main focus is the cat’s quiet relationship with the couple and the house they live in. The descriptions of both Chibi and their house is poetic and academic perhaps keeping in mind the profession of the narrator.
Through these descriptions the narrator also conveys information and comments on the goings on in Japan and Tokyo, most prominently the real estate and the Emperor’s sickness and subsequent death. It is accompanied by a glossary at the end which gives good information on the Japanese references in the novel.
Another, truly unique aspect that stands out are the comparisons and references between the different emotions and moods of the narrator whether it is comparing a house hunt with Machiavelli or triangular surveying to measure distance to avoid grief!
All in all, the novel, The Guest Cat shines because of its talent to convey profound musings through the everyday. And whether you are a cat lover or not, this is a must read since the style and the writing is unique, sparse and down to earth.
Here is a link of the book on Amazon: