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Download I Am a Cat epub

by Soseki Natsume,Aiko Ito,Graeme Wilson

Book by Soseki Natsume
Download I Am a Cat epub
ISBN: 0804816212
ISBN13: 978-0804816212
Category: Literature
Subcategory: History & Criticism
Author: Soseki Natsume,Aiko Ito,Graeme Wilson
Language: English
Publisher: Tuttle Pub; 1st edition (1972)
Pages: 218 pages
ePUB size: 1760 kb
FB2 size: 1183 kb
Rating: 4.4
Votes: 800
Other Formats: azw lrf rtf lit

The cat in question is a brilliantly opinionated, unnamed stray kitten that lands in the household of a distracted schoolteacher and his young family. The cat's master is undoubtably Soseki himself, whom Cat describes as a selfish, dispeptic, mustachioed dimwit who doesn't know his own children's ages. (The fact that Soseki was writing and publishing as many as four books a year while suffering from serious stomach ailments that would kill him only twelve years later are beyond the cat's comprehension.) The rest of the household doesn't fare much better in his feline opinion: the schoolteacher's wife is hilariously abstracted; the maid is grotesquely incompetent, and the children, including a tyrannical toddler, are beyond control. Things improve for the cat when the master publishes a short story about him--as Soseki himself did--that gives the animal a measure of fame. Secure in his adoptive household, the lordly cat sits in on his master's philosophizing with his friends, his nonchalant marital banter, and a nasty feud with a rich neighbor. His adventures and hilarious overheard dialogue fill three novels--470 pages in all--covering subjects as varied as baseball, Greek philosophy, literature (not only Japanese but English and Chinese), changing social mores, marriage and suicide. While it's hard to convey the wit of Soseki's prose, it retains a freshness 113 years after publication, something that can't be said for his contemporaries' writing, no matter the language. More startling still is the fact that Soseki the author comes up in one of the master's conversations with his friends--and not flatteringly. The writer-as-character device was hailed as post-modern when Martin Amis tried it in the 1990's, so it's fair to call it post-modern here. "I Am a Cat" is a masterpiece of universal appeal with no equivalent. It deserves to be more widely known.
First some technical stuff: I read "I Am a Cat" on the kindle which allowed me to forget it's over 600 pages. The kindle always weighs the same and you can make the text big. I found there were a lot of typos in the beginning. Sometimes I would want to look up the definition of a word but since it was misspelled I was unable to just click on it. Eventually I got so swept up in the book that I stopped noticing.

"I Am a Cat" is not a plot-driven page turner. But if you enjoy sinking your teeth into each sentence and lingering, then this book is for you. There are so many wonderfully crafted, witty and wise sentences in here, I mean, pretty much the entire thing. This is a rich book.

Told from the perspective of a cat who acts as voyeur and anthropologist, "I Am a Cat" follows the cat's master, a school teacher named Mr. Sneaze, and his pretentious, academic visitors in Meiji Era Japan. I had no previous interest in Japanese literature, I just picked this book up out of the blue but I enjoyed learning about the specific social norms and prejudices of Japan in this time period which the book pokes fun at with much wit.

The device of the cat telling the story makes for some good jokes and philosophizing about animals' place in human society but a lot of the book is really not about the cat at all. We follow Mr. Sneaze through his mundane daily routines and his interactions with his friends. The dialog is wonderful, with one or two poet characters bursting into Haiku now and then. It made me think a little of Seinfeld in that the characters never learn a lesson- they just keep bantering and getting into their inevitable little mishaps.

By the end of the book, not a lot has happened but I had become very attached to the characters and "listening" to them talk. As I read the final two pages of the book I was bawling. I'm not sure if this was because those passages were so, so beautiful, and a different vibe from the rest of the book, or because I didn't want it to end. Probably a bit of both.
Although the original Japanese of this book was written over a century ago, I think anyone who has lived in Japan and/or who loves cats would enjoy it. For many years, there was no full English version, and even when one came out and I bought it, I lent it to cheer up an English-speaking lady who was unhappily married to a Japanese man (sorry if that's TMI), and then she went back to her own country or something--anyway, I never saw the book again and couldn't find another one in a store. It was way before the Internet. So now I am very, very happy to have it in English once again.

Japanese novels of around Soseki's period, while interesting, tend to be of a rather gloomy cast, but this one is humorous. The author is very famous and this story, which doesn't have much of a plot line, originally appeared serially in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.