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The Guest Cat

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  16,650 ratings  ·  2,257 reviews
A bestseller in France and winner of Japan’s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award, The Guest Cat, by the acclaimed poet Takashi Hiraide, is a subtly moving and exceptionally beautiful novel about the transient nature of life and idiosyncratic but deeply felt ways of living. A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo; they work at home, freel ...more
Paperback, 140 pages
Published January 28th 2014 by New Directions (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  16,650 ratings  ·  2,257 reviews

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Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm no expert in literature, but I'd hazard a guess that any problems readers may have with this book are based in cultural differences rather than any literary failings with the book itself. The book is very Japanese in that it focuses/describes one element at a time. Its poetry is in its illustration of people, places, and things, not of events, which is pretty counter to my experience of Western literature. It's so descriptive that at many points I found myself wishing I had an iota of artist ...more
Nov 15, 2015 rated it liked it
...observation is at its core an expression of love which doesn’t get caught up in sentiment.

Those green eyes glowing in the dark ceaselessly, endowing the cover of this book with a breath of life, a dream of plenitude - those eyes were an irresistible enticement. An immediate move was imperative; The Guest Cat had to be on my shelf. Unfortunately, my expectations were far too great, especially taking into account the fact that one of the ingredients of this plot is supposed to be a couple w
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
A spring breeze at dawn -
Takashi Hiraide's words
Like dewdrops on cat's whiskers.

I still can recall the expression on my students’ faces when I explained the rules of writing haiku poems to them. It was a mixture of bewilderment and incredulity. They seemed to be asking: you must be joking, it’s sure not enough to be called a poem?! I think the kids’ reaction is similar to many adults’. Especially nowadays, when we live so fast that immortalizing moments and stopping for a while just to admire
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: china-japan-asia
Observation is at its core an expression of love which doesn’t get caught up in sentiment.

From first page’s delicate description of an optical illusion seen on a frosted window pane, this novella painstakingly documents minute and admiring observations, one object at a time. Nature features strongly: the cat, trees, butterflies, insects, but also windows and boundaries. The focus is on poetic beauty in the moment (like haiku), without shadow of sentiment, even when there is good cause for str
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful little book. Typically Japanese with lovely lyrical descriptions. Not much happens in the book but it is very evocative and I felt a sense of loss when it was finished.

A young Japanese couple who work from home live in a tiny cottage on the edge of a larger estate in a quiet part of Tokyo. The estate has a beautiful old traditional Japanese garden which they are allowed to use by the old couple living in the big house. One day a stray cat is adopted by their neighbours who na
(2.5) Sigh. Such a disappointment. As a cat-loving freelance writer who aspires to read more literature in translation, I thought from the blurb that this book could not be more perfect for me. I bought it in a charity shop one afternoon and started reading right away. It’s only 140 pages, so I finished within 24 hours, but felt at a distance from the story the whole time.

Part of it might be the translation – the translator’s notes at the end explain some useful context about the late 1980s sett
Holly Bik
I really really wanted to like this book, but I found it entirely forgettable. I think this might be an example of something being "lost in translation", since much of the profound nature of Asian literature seems to get wiped away in English versions. The prose was poetic and lyrical nonetheless, and I got a very vivid picture of the lives of the couple and their interactions with the cat. But as the plot developed I lost the connection to the philosophical and metaphorical, and at the end of t ...more
Jim Coughenour
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
"It's best to go empty-handed…"

An almost perfect little book, as delicate as a netsuke. Its tale is simple – a young bohemian couple is adopted by a neighbor's cat, who is treated as a guest, not a pet.
Chibi was a jewel of a cat. Her pure white fur was mottled with several lampblack blotches containing just bit of light brown. The sort of cat you might see just about anywhere in Japan, except she was especially slim and tiny.
I didn't realize until I'd almost finished the book that "Chibi" appear
“Cats are connoisseurs of comfort.”

----James Herriot

Takashi Hiraide, a Japanese writer, has penned a soul touching and thoroughly captivating tale about a cat and a couple's relationship in his book, The Guest Cat that is centered around a mid aged couple who are freelance writers and work from their rented cottage and lead a very quite and uneventful life, but one day their life brings purpose as an uninvited as well as the neighbor's cat lands up to their kitchen and starts visiting their h
Emma Sea
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: auckland-library
for cross-cultural reasons this was a challenging read; I still struggle with the ending, particularly.

The sentence structure and carefully pruned language are sublime and I simply loved the experience of reading the story. Seeing the settings come alive was like watching someone paint in front of me. However I was always aware I was only seeing the surface of the story, missing everything underneath. The translator's notes at the back helped a great deal, and I need to re-read now.

Highly reco
Apr 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Appreciate the ephemeral, that is, everything in your life.
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
OK, I admit it. I love cats and I was snookered into this one mainly by the cover and the review wasn't bad at all. It's kind of like buying wine by the label...if it's cute, I buy it! Boy, can you get stuck! In this case, once again, I got stuck. I just didn't get it! It was NOT at all what I was hoping for. Didn't like the writing, didn't like the setting (very confusing descriptions), the characters were less than interesting and the cat was not appealing at all! That's saying a lot from a ca ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-cabinet, 125-225
No clue why this author called this book "The guest cast" because he writes more about his guest house, the surroundings and the lifestyle. Also the book said it would go about his relationship with his wife what was on rocky roads, I have to say there was little to no mention. The characters weren't built either. So I have to conclude this was a boring read and not what it would be according to the flap.

Sophie Crane
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals
As a cat lover and with good reviews I was interested to read this book. It was not quite as I expected because there was not a lot of story in it but a gentle tale of how a little cat entered the hearts of a Japanese couple who seemed to have a pretty sterile life. It chose to spend what seemed half its life with them and when it died they realised how much it had inhabited their lives and being. It is all so typical of how these independent little creatures become so lovable and part of a fami ...more
Pet owners are generally divided into either “Cat people” or “dog people” categories. One never seems to fully understand the other. In Takashi Hiraide’s novella, “The Guest Cat”, an unnamed married couple (who aren’t necessarily cat people) becomes attached to Chibi: a neighbor’s cat/stray.

“The Guest Cat” is a simple novella in terms of a plotline. One can seemingly predict what takes place when a couple falls in love with a cat that begins visiting their home. Look deeper, however, and Hiraide
Mattia Ravasi
People look askance at me when I support the old-fashioned view that literature should be studied nationally (as in, within its chosen tradition), with a certain air of "how dare you tell me what I should read!", but if I read this book outside its narrative heritage, approaching it in light of my (Western-shaped) understanding of fiction, it would be a Kafkesque descent into madness as the protagonists develop a morbid, obscene obsession with a dead cat. I suspect that is not the text's intenti ...more
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This story takes place in Japan in the 1980s. The couple, one a freelance writer the other a proof-reader and editor, work from home. Over time communication decreases between them as they are involved in their solitary work. One day a neighbor’s cat wanders into their home. Chibi begins to make regular visits to them. The cat brings them small pleasures that allow them to reconnect with each other.

The book is extremely well written. It is short only three and a half hours long (140 pages). The
Jun 13, 2014 rated it did not like it
There's no way to be sure just how much the translator is responsible for my not liking this book, but he may be a large part of the reason I finally took the book back to the library about two-thirds of the way through it. The early promise of simple elegance never gets beyond precious word choice, soggy subtlety, and vapid characters. I was aching for light and color, for a heartbeat that never came.
Samantha Roberts
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am completely rubbish at reviews but I could not put this little book down! I became so absorbed in the Japanese couple's life and how they adored the cat. The way the book is written is poetic and very descriptive, so much so that you can paint a vivid image in your mind of how their home looks, how the garden looks and so on. I genuinely just really enjoyed myself reading this delightful book.
Jonathan Pool

Set in 1988, a cat, Chibi (“little one”) becomes the focal point of a couple’s lives. The (unnamed) narrator reflects on the whereabouts of Chibi, and the vexed question of ownership is central to the story. Cat owners/ lovers will know that a cat will have a significant say on who it answers to, and whether to spread its presence for maximum benefit (to it)!
The cover of the book features a cat. The book’s title is a cat title. This is misleading. The cat is a bit player in a classically
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a lovely, luminous, and sad little book. For me, it evoked memories of adopted strays from my past: a bittersweet last meal for a fluffy tabby tomcat, as he eagerly leaned in for me to pet him while he scarfed up the cat food I offered, and I felt twinges of guilt at my knowledge that the food would not be there the next day, that our belongings would be packed up, our lives continued elsewhere, while he would show up again, expecting no disruption of his cyclical needs and his daily jo ...more
Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
A quiet book about a Japanese couple who become enamored with their neighbor's cat. On the surface, very simple and straightforward, but there are many layers here. The book works as a meditation on love and loss. The more we nurture something the more we feel it's loss when it's gone. That's a given. We all understand that. The author suggests this is a model way to live. But how does one come to cultivate a garden, for instance, when the things of this world are in a perpetual state of flux? T ...more
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
I did not enjoy or get anything out of this book. I see someone at Amazon is going through the negative reviews and flagging them as "unhelpful" -- well that in itself is unhelpful, because the book is definitely not above reproach. One of my two stars is because, given all the praise and honors "The Guest Cat" has garnered, I wonder if most of it is lost in translation, not because of any failing on the part of the translator, but as a result of the material. I am familiar with Japanese literat ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I am cycling off a Postal Book Group I participated in from 2015-2019, and The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide was my last read. It started through the Books on the Nightstand Goodreads group, and if you listened to that podcast (R.I.P.) you know that started a while ago!

A married couple lives in a guest house on a larger estate and the slim novel is more about how they relate to the architecture and light of their house, the seasons, other people, Chibi the cat, and so on. This is another novella/
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it

I really loved this one - especially the ending! It really got me thinking about people, cats, and the nature of the relationship between people and cats and people and people.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
This philosophical, poetic book is infused with Japanese culture. The ability of the author to describe ordinary life and ordinary days and an ordinary neighborhood in such simple, profound ways was outstanding.

This was translated into English so I think the translator should get some credit. However, realistically, some of the beauty or context of the original text may have been "lost in translation".

Although, on the surface, the story could be about the guest cat, Chibi, I think it was more
Morris Nelms
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
I wanted to give this five stars, but I don't know if it's really that good. It's a remarkable and unique book. The style of the narration is so unassuming that it could be a problem for readers expecting a traditional story. It took me a minute to realize what the writer was doing. This book is, at least to some degree, about mindfulness and Zen, for want of a better word. Of course that's to be expected, since the writer is Japanese. You do not need to like cats at all to enjoy this book. The ...more
Abbie | ab_reads
The Guest Cat was a very sweet and sad story as I was expecting, and I enjoyed reading the translator’s notes at the end as Japanese literature presents a lot of cultural and linguistic differences when translating into English (and many other languages I imagine), so it was fascinating to have that insight provided by Eric Selland. But a lot of this book (and it’s only 140 pages) is descriptions of places, layouts of houses and cities, and my brain just doesn’t work that way?! I get utterly los ...more
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delightful book about a guest cat who visits a couple in their but also looks at life in general too of emotions, loss and longing
Semi-feral cats are everywhere in Japan. Every day, my husband and I feed at least three: "Friendly" and "Pushy," who live in the garden of a public housing project in our street, and "Mi-kechan," a calico cat who lives by herself near a Shinjuku facility for the handicapped. We're not the only ones who do this: Mi-kechan, for example, has survived on her own for at least a decade, thanks to passersby who stop regularly with offerings of fish, chicken, and cat-biscuits. And with some of our "cat ...more
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Takashi Hiraide was born in Moji, Kitakyushu in 1950. He has published numerous books of poetry as well as several books of genre-bending essays, including one on poetics and baseball. He has also written a novel, A Guest Cat; a biography of Meiji poet Irako Seihaku; and a travelogue that follows the traces of Kafka, Celan, and Benjamin in Berlin. His poetry book, Postcards to Donald Evans, is pub ...more

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“Then she told me about a philosopher who said that observation is at its core an expression of love which doesn’t get caught up in sentiment.” 27 likes
“Having played to her heart's content, Chibi would come inside and rest for a while. When she began to sleep on the sofa--like a talisman curled gently in the shape of a comma and dug up from a prehistoric archaeological site--a deep sense of happiness arrived, as if the house itself had dreamed this scene.” 17 likes
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