Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Guest Cat

I have started Bellezza's Japanese Literature Reading Challenge with a truly beautiful book, "The Guest Cat", (2001) and translated into English in 2014 (and in Romanian in 2016). In fact, it is so melancholically beautiful that I named my cat, which I just adopted a day ago, Chibi. Chibi is the guest cat, a cat that comes and goes as she pleases in the house of a thirty year old couple.
The novel is quite short, about 140 pages and there isn't much action taking place, but if you take into account the fact that the writer, Takashi Hiraide, is a poet and this is his first work in prose, and he is also a Japanese writer, meaning that we all know how subtle they can be in their writing style, this little book comes out as a gem.
Chibi manages to make the couple, who have neither children nor pets like her so much that when she "leaves" them, they have a problem getting used to the feeling.

Eating and sleeping as much as she liked, circulating freely between locales, it seemed as if the boundary between the two households had itself come into question. Even the words we used to talk about Chibi had become a mass of confusion: was her coming to our house a return – a homecoming – or was it the other way around? Was home really over there? The whole situation seemed to be in flux. Once, when we had been out for the day, we returned to find Chibi there in the dim light of the entrance to welcome us, seated properly, feet together on the raised wooden floor as if she were a young girl who had been left to care for the house while we were away.
 “See, I told you. She’s our girl.”
 …or so my wife said, though she knew she wasn’t really ours. Which is why it seemed all the more as if she were a gift from afar – an honored guest bestowing her presence upon us.

The way the writer perfectly captures the soothing calmness of the cat is in tone with the type of poetry in prose that he writes. Click here if you want to read the complete interview with Takashi Hiraide in which he also talks about "The Guest Cat":

"The Guest Cat is written in keeping with the Japanese tradition of the I-Novel. This is a kind of novel that is very near to the essay, but also a form that is interested in the difference between the two. The novel is a form of fiction, the essay a form of non-fiction, but I am very much interested in their subtle differences—in the space that exists between them but also in places where they overlap."

This is a novel that will leave a trace on you as long as you are sensitive enough to see how much a feline's soul can alter yours for good. And if you wonder who the cat in the middle of the collage is... it is my Chibi! :) 


Alle Deac said...


Ally said...

Maybe you will pay her a visit soon :))

Bellezza said...

Japanese writers (and readers) just seem to go together with kitties. I think Chiba the most charming name for a kitty I ever heard, and I wish ibcouldnvisit her. I didn't know this book was so few pages, but I love the peaceful atmosphere packed into so few, and the background of its author being a poet first. xo

Ally said...

I know, M! I think I developed my fondness towards cats with the great amount of Japanese books I have read, thanks to you as well :) Chibi is the most affectionate cat I have met, you would fall in love with her :)