I Am A Cat by Natsume Sōseki (translated by Aiko Ito and Grame Wilson) is my first Japanese cat book. It was a Christmas present from my other half, who gave me 4 Japanese cat books in total, and I decided I wanted to read them in publication order.
Despite consciously making that decision, I didn’t fully realise that this book was from 1905 and that did have an impact on my reading experience. Completely my own fault of course. I’d expected a cat novel in the modern sense, where it’s all about the cat. This isn’t what you get from this book, instead it’s a commentary about early 1900s Japanese culture. But once I had realised and accepted what this book was actually about, it was vastly more enjoyable.
I learnt quite a bit about Japanese culture in this time, and I loved the viewpoint that the cat was able to give us. Seeing all the individuals for who they truly were, and being able to explore and go where our humans characters could not. It truly is a satirisation of the foolishness of upper-middle-class Japanese society during the Meiji era.
The “book” is actually a collection of short stories that were published in ten instalments in a literary journal. The first instalment was supposed to be a one off, but the publisher and the readers enjoyed it so much that they asked Sōseki to publish some more! This means that each story can actually stand quite well on its own.
The ending was definitely a little bit of a shock for me, not what I had expected at all. And it was harsher than I had anticipated too! Partly a product of it’s time of course, but still! It was really interesting to see how Sōseki approached this.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 5, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 7, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 6, Logic: 7, Enjoyment: 5, which totalled 6.29 and gave a 3.5* rating.
I’m really glad that I’ve read the original cat book and I’m excited to delve into more now! Do you read translated works? I adore finding translated books from other cultures!