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Cat Country : A Satirical Novel of China in the 1930s

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  545 ratings  ·  71 reviews
When a traveller from China crash-lands on Mars, he finds himself in a country inhabited entirely by Cat People. Befriended by a local cat-man, he becomes acquainted in all aspects of cat-life: he learns to speak Felinese, masters cat-poetry, and appreciates the narcotic effects of the reverie leaf – their food staple. But curiosity turns to despair when he ventures furthe ...more
Hardcover, 295 pages
Published June 28th 1970 by Ohio State Univ Pr (Txt) (first published 1932)
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Ivana Books Are Magic
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Cat Country by Lao She is an interesting little satirical novel that reads easily, but it can taste bitter. The writing is fairly simple, but the satire is quite heavy. Published in 1933, Cat Country has been translated in many languages, so there is a good chance you can find in a language of your preference. The edition I read didn't have the subtitle ' A Satirical Novel of China in the 1930s', but it is not like I couldn't figure what it is about. I suppose the subtitle doesn't hurt, it is fa ...more
K.J. Charles
Sep 30, 2019 added it
Shelves: china, 1930s, satire, sf
A vicious satire of China in the 1930s, taking wide aim at culture and ideology. It's nominally SF but not really: the setting is only developed as it needs to be for satirical purposes. Satire and SF can coexist convincingly (parts of Gulliver's Travels) but at least as it's translated, this is very much the former.

It's pretty bitter stuff, with some moments of horrendous violence, a really bleak world view, and lots of bonus misogyny, both in the Cat Country society and in the narrator voice,
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is brilliant satire. This is terrible science fiction. If you're familiar with the contemporaneous historical period in which the author is writing, this is a thoroughly engaging, amusing and troubling work. If you're not familiar with the events, you'll find this a confusing, unfunny, poorly-written hash which you might be able to roughly identify with planet of the apes.

If, therefore, you deicide to read this, you should take some time to look into Lao She, the Chinese Republican and War
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
The author did not consider himself a good satirist. I would disagree, this is satire at its best. It is a satire on China, but I would say that it can be applied to most societies. Set on Mars, it questions the customs of a cat society living there, while in fact examining human nature. More often focusing on dark aspects of human psychology then not, the novel describes a dystopian society. It is a fascinating read, if somewhat depressive.
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book written in 1933, about a man that crashes on Mars, where the Cat People live. He soon learns everything about their way of life. The book is a dystopian satire. You can clearly see old traditional China, opium China and Communist China in the stories of Cat Country. The book is very density written, some chapters are pure description of the education system or the political parties. Definitely very interesting and a very important book.

Having said that, I am of course a shallow person and
Jacques Coulardeau
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Of course, we could today read this novel as a direct description of China in 1932, more or less predicting the invasion of the country by the Japanese, not yet the Communists really since the Long March has to go west and not east. And the invasion from the west is clearly the invasion of China by westerns powers before the Japanese who will come from the east, and the conquest of China by the Commies from West is not enough co
Sep 28, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
interesting but bleak and heavy-handed in its commentary
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bravo, Lao She! I'm only sorry that your idealism and integrity caused you to be tortured, and pushed you to take your own life.
Once I knew that this was a satire in Chinese life in the 30s, I couldn't help to see each situation as making fun of Chinese and the beginning of communism and the whole madness of Mao Zedong.
My fave quotes:
--"This was a good example of Cat Country logic: the ableist people ought to receive the lowest Rewards" (p.54).
--"the cat people were not accustomed to helping i
As has been mentionned by another reviewer here, "This is brilliant satire. This is terrible science fiction."

The plot is almost nonexistant, but it is an excuse for a fantastic satire of the Chinese society of that period. Between the reverie-leaf that makes us think of opium, the "everybody sharekyism" that ressembles marxism/communism/all other -ism, the blind immitation of foreign values, the continual revolts, corruption, Lao She discribes a very bleak society, a society loosing its values,
Iman Danial Hakim
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellently written. A story about a man stranded on Mars, inhabitated by Cat People. Befriended by a local cat-man, he learns all aspect of cat-life - Felinese culture, cat-poetry, etc. A satire at its best; that lampoons 1930s China. Lao She unfolds the brutality and violence of early Communist era via dystopian society.

Really a worth reading!

#catpeople #laoshe #china #satire #read4malaysia #book #novel #literature
Nicholas Whyte
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it

My old friend Rana Mitter recommended this to me as an early example of the Chinese science fiction tradition which we're now seeing in the works of Cixin Liu and Hao Jingfang (and others, but those are the recent Hugo winners). It's a short read, a very very direct satire on China of the 1930s, portrayed as a country on the planet Mars inhabited by cat people. The narrator is an earthling who arrives in a crashed spaceship just before the story begins
Mar 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lao She's Sci-fi account of a society's downfall is a thinly veiled dystopian vision of the fate of the Chinese Republic. Told through the eyes of a stranded Mr. Earth, a nameless narrator who seems to have no purpose other than to enable this historical account, the cautionary tale is a collection of encounters with different members of a society that is destroying itself through vice, anarchy, and short-sighted greed.

Lao She's polemical attack on self-serving individuals and their disservice
A glimpse into the political situation in China in the 1930s through the eyes of a pessimist: Lao She despises both the bureaucratic state and the hapless revolutionaries because he sees both groups as self-serving and idiotic. References to the Chinese state, Karl Marx, and Communism are thinly veiled ("Everybody Shareskyism"). The text is interesting and enjoyable, if you enjoy fuel for misanthropy. The main thrust: everyone is irredeemably stupid and deserves to die, for what is the point of ...more
Best known for his vernacular drama and novels, Lao She brought the local dialect of Beijing to a wider, national audience during the Chinese Republican Era yet Cat Country is a marked change from his standard plays. His first and only work of science-fiction, the novel tells the story of a Chinese man stranded on Mars whereupon he encounters a race of Cat People. In investigating their society and culture, he learns more about them and soon realises that their whole civilisation is on the brink ...more
I must admit that I did not care as much for this as I was hoping. It was very heavy handed satire. Like most early 20th century Chinese literature I've read by male authors it lacks any real characterisation of women. The book involves a young man going to Mars and discovering the "cat country" which then proceeds to mock all the things that he dislikes about Chinese culture. In the English translation the translator is key to point out the problems of traditional Chinese culture that is being ...more
Sean Jan
Dec 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Cat country by Lao She is a dystopian science fiction novel based around the fall of a civilization. When a astronaut crash lands on mars, he finds himself in a civilization made entirely out of cat people. He learns about their language, habits, and culture however he soon discovers that he is observing the fall of the civilization. This book is plot driven and character development is also fairly common however the setting and conflict aren’t all that apparent. This book actually doesn’t have ...more
Jade Liu
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine a world where you graduate the day you enter school, where it is normal for students to kill their teachers and principals, where the army runs away from the enemy, where revolution is not motivated by a desire for change but a desire to imitate, where museums are empty of all artifacts, where government officials respond to military threats by losing themselves in prostitutes. This is the Martian world that Lao She creates in this short satire novel, painting an apocalyptic vision of so ...more
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fantastical fable; humorous but with the painful tinge of historical mirroring. Knowing a little about China at the beginning of Communism was enough for me to see the parody (or just direct comparison) of Cat Country to China. A few laugh out loud moments were quickly balanced by shock and sympathy when you realise that, although this story is set on Mars, the real story was real China and the madness that went on in the name of ideals.
A really good read.
Liz L
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's a bit of a slog at first, but it really gets going in the second half once everything was all set up. The entire last act was a bit of a punch in the gut.

The final sentence may be one of the my favorite final sentences ever. It was so blunt that I cackled like a middle school kid who just witnessed a sick burn.

It made me sad, made me laugh, and it surprised me. Can't ask for much more than that.
Michael Camilleri
This is an incredible book, unbelievably written before the Communist Party in China had come to power. Unbelievable because of how much it presages what was to come. Although it is primarily an allegory about China and its difficulties, it's also a tale of a stranger in a strange land. The insights She has about foreigners and how they're perceived still ring true. ...more
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Any book translated from the Peking dialect, a political satire written by a man who admitted to being a poor satirist, and masquerading as China's first purported sci-fi novel, is likely to be a bit odd.

Aside from all this, I quite enjoyed it.
Apr 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Still applicable to China today, as well as many other countries. Like any good satire you can pick and choose quotes and passages that ring true today, even though the book was written in the 1930s.
Sara Kallstrom
Dec 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Penguin Modern Classics has recently published an English version of this book. If you are familiar with Chinese history around the fall of the Qing Dynasty, you might be interested in this satire by one of China's great modern authors. If you aren't familiar with this time period, don't bother. ...more
Julia Rosa
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is BLEAK AF, but an essential reading to understand modern China, but also interesting to debate revolution, ideology, morality. But it's depressing and doesn't have a good opinion of mankind. ...more
May 10, 2018 rated it liked it
A disillusioning story.
While rickshaw boy focused on the personal experience of the protagonist, this one clearly took a truly global view at the misery and decadence of a whole nation. And what a nation!
Wondering how China overcame this.

cf. Penguin island
Amanda Madany
Feb 24, 2020 rated it did not like it
Read this for my thesis. Cat Country is a satirical commentary about Chinese society pre-Cultural Revolution. Lao She had a bleak image of the youth in China, unlike many other famous Chinese authors. I would not recommend it.
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
good book, but I wont suggest it to my friends, not the exceptional one.
Jan 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china
This is an awesome satire of China that helped me get a feel for the real social, economic, and political issues were causing so much duress in the 1930s.
Joseph L. Reid
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly harsh satire of the issues Chinese society faced at the time. Many aspects of its criticism still stand for current Chinese society, but this is of course debatable.
Patrick Gamble
Hard to be a Cat - Excellent world building and some nice satire but something gets lost in the translation.
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Lao She (Chinese: 老舍; pinyin: Lǎo Shě; Wade–Giles: Lao She; February 3, 1899 – August 24, 1966) was the pen name of Shu Qingchun (simplified Chinese: 舒庆春; traditional Chinese: 舒慶春; pinyin: Shū Qìngchūn; Manchu surname: Sumuru), a noted Chinese novelist and dramatist. He was one of the most significant figures of 20th-century Chinese literature, and best known for his novel Rickshaw Boy and the pla ...more

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“the novel is a vicious attack on the guiding ideology of the party – Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought.” 1 likes
“And so the result of several years of Everybody Shareskyism, other than slaughtering people, is for everybody to stand around and stare blankly at each other.” 0 likes
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