Friday, 18 March 2016

The Guest Cat - novella by Takashi Hiraide *****

The word exquisite comes to mind when I read this novella, to describe the use of language, but then I reject exquisite as implying superficial, if perfect, in appearance. It’s true there’s a lot of detail in the story, but most of it is purposeful in defining, not merely describing character.

There are several characters who are not human, or even animate, in this story of the neighbours’ cat who visits a childless couple. The in-animates are two houses, a garden, a tree, even an alley.

Exquisite also somehow implies small. There’s too much thought in this story for it to be small. The cat visits. The cat does what cats do, then goes away. The seasons turn, punctuated by the cat’s visits and the couple come to depend on the cat’s presence. The very architecture is portrayed with gentle consideration. The buildings are not just facades, they are personalities with light, reflection and shadow, quiet and noise, emptiness and solidity.

 Someone who has cat, or cats in their life may understand the scenario. To the uninitiated it may not work, therefore this isn’t a perfect story. But then what is.

The structure has a few minor imperfections, for my liking anyway. There’s a passage delving into Machiavellian philosophy which seems unnecessary; like talking down to an audience. Maybe this part has lost something in translation.

Read the Guest Cat anyway, the imperfections are very minor, it’s not long and has a charm and beauty which should draw you in.

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