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I Am a Cat
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Book Club > I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki

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Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 231 comments Kicking off a thread for this February book!

I read this back in 2009, though I only read the first volume (the attached edition collects all 3 volumes). As I recall I mildly enjoyed it, but lost interest after one volume :P (My review here for those interested: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...)

A thing to mention is probably the translation. I complained about the translation of names and food to English back then (I read the attached edition, which is the most recent as far as I know). A friend read an older edition, and it seemed better as they retained people's names and food names in Japanese.


Christian (comeauch) | 362 comments I think I might do the same and read only the first "book", especially after reading the introduction where it says that Soseki hadn't initially planned for more anyway... Well we'll see!


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Hez | 7 comments I've been reading an abridged version of this that I can't find on GR. Its only about 200 pages. Its one of those English language translations for the Japanese English student market, like those early Haruki Murakami translations.

Its a good little fantasy


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Carola (carola-) | 167 comments I started reading this yesterday. I borrowed it from the library and mysteriously enough we do not carry a longer translation. This is the one I'm reading: I Am a Cat. It's only 218 pages long so I guess it's abridged? Not a fan usually, but reading the reviews of some GR friends, I guess I'm okay with it. Anyone knows how the two compare? And how long is the first book/chapter (the original story) in your editions?

Anyway, I'm about halfway through, and so far it's a quick albeit somewhat underwhelming read.


message 5: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1170 comments Carola wrote: "I started reading this yesterday. I borrowed it from the library and mysteriously enough we do not carry a longer translation. This is the one I'm reading: I Am a Cat. It's only 218 ..."

I have the version with all three volumes, and volume one is only 116 pages, FYI.


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Carola (carola-) | 167 comments Hmmm. My copy contains three 'chapters', the first one being 24 pages, the second one around 90 pages and the last one around 80. Do the volumes in your copy have separate chapters? Just trying to figure out what's what.


Christian (comeauch) | 362 comments My ebook version has 3 volumes... Volume 2 starts with "It has become my usual practice to sneak into Goldfields' mansion."


Christian (comeauch) | 362 comments I've just finished the first volume. Actually, I re-read the introduction and it says that he only intended to write the first chapter.

I thought it was ok, but this kind of humor mixed with a very British translation (or so it seems to me?) probably doesn't do it justice. The elevated language is a big part of why it's funny, so I'm not sure who's calling the jokes between the translator and the author.

The idea of viewing the world through the eyes of a cat is appealing, but the cat quickly becomes a third person narrator. I kind of guessed it would only be a narration device, but I was nonetheless a bit disappointed. Anyway, it was still funny and made me laugh out loud a few times... but I really feel like I'm reading a British comedy set in Japan :P

(I changed my edition to one with fewer pages to make up for reading only the first volume hehehe)


message 9: by Carola (last edited Feb 20, 2017 05:19AM) (new) - added it

Carola (carola-) | 167 comments I double checked my edition and I've got one with only the first three chapters. Who was your translator? I can't say I was enthusiastic about the translation I was reading :P Many jokes were probably lost in translation. In some cases I had a vague idea of what the original joke was, but in most cases the joke was completely lost (and as a result it just wasn't funny)

I really liked the first chapter though!


Christian (comeauch) | 362 comments Mine is this one: I Am a Cat I'm surprised that there's a version with only the first "volume", doesn't it end abruptly? Like the cat just decided to start involving itself and the same evening, the story ends? :P Having said that, I had no particular problem stopping at that point lol.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 231 comments Ahah, did you guys decide to just read the first volume too? So it wasn't just me :)

I'm thinking they probably wanted to convey some jokes by translating the names, like Sneaze, Waverhouse, Coldmoon, and Goldfield. But it was totally lost on me. I wonder how the translation would be like in French or Dutch :)


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Aiya | 7 comments I just last night downloaded the Kindle version that's about 500 pages. I'm a little intimidated by that much cat.


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Alex (asato) | 1 comments I'm a little late to the party but I requested an interlibrary loan copy for the 600-lb cat edition. We'll see how it goes.


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Carola (carola-) | 167 comments Christian wrote: "Like the cat just decided to start involving itself and the same evening, the story ends? :P Having said that, I had no particular problem stopping at that point lol."
... that, exactly XD!

Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "I wonder how the translation would be like in French or Dutch :) "
Actually me too! Unfortunately not much has been translated by Soseki :( Only Kokoro and The Gate, and only as recent as 2013! (Shocked, I am, shocked!)


message 15: by Alex (last edited Feb 25, 2017 03:31PM) (new) - added it

Alex (asato) | 1 comments Read the intro and as was previously posted, it was only a short story to begin with, but in addition it was serialized--hence its episodic nature. Satire, which it is, is quite difficult to translate both in time and cross-culturally.


message 16: by Suki (new) - rated it 3 stars

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 64 comments I FINALLY finished this! It was really hard going for me. I read the Tuttle edition with all three volumes (470 pages).

I love cats, I really enjoyed other works I have read by Soseki, and I am very fond of Victorian/Edwardian literature. However, when they are all mixed together, they are less than good.

I read general Goodreads reviews of the book where people were praising it, with one person going so far as to say that it was his favorite book of all time. I guess I missed the point, because I found the whole thing quite tedious with occasional very funny bits. I had no sympathy for any of the human characters, they were all too self-involved. Their casual cruelty to the kitten, especially in the beginning of the book was very hard to read, but I think the greatest cruelty is that he never mattered enough to anyone to be given a name. (I realize he was just a literary construct through which Soseki aired his views of society, but I was fond of him.)

A big part of the problem I had with the book was with the translation (as others have already mentioned). I did not like that the characters' names were anglicized, and there were parts where the tone of the novel (including slang) were much more British than Japanese. I don't know if these were liberties taken by the translators, or if Soseki was trying to write in a British style, since he had returned from his stay in England just a year or two before this book was written. Part of the introduction in my edition mentions that he had tried to write some poetry in the Edwardian style, which, according to the introduction, was "appalling".

I do love the idea behind the book, however. I have three cats, and I find it very amusing to try and imagine their views on modern society, and on me and my housemates in particular.


Christian (comeauch) | 362 comments @Suki Pardon my curiosity, but how does it end? :P Anything interesting happening after the first volume?


message 18: by Suki (last edited Mar 13, 2017 05:38PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 64 comments Christian wrote: "@Suki Pardon my curiosity, but how does it end? :P Anything interesting happening after the first volume?"

*SPOILER WARNING*

The entire second book and most of the third is the people doing their thing, with the cat commenting on events (or non-events) as they unfold.

At the end of the third book, the cat's master is sitting and philosophising and exchanging stories with several of his friends. There is much talk about death. They are drinking beer, and the cat is very curious about the effects the drink is having on the men. After the guests leave and his master has gone to bed, the cat slips into the kitchen and discovers several glasses that are half-full of beer. He wants to experience what the men felt, so he decides to have a taste. At first he is horrified by the foul taste and the sensation that his tongue is being pierced by needles. He decides to do as he saw the men do, and finish the glass as quickly as possible. He finds his mouth is somewhat numb, so he finishes off the leftovers in all the glasses. He begins to feel a glow, and he decides he wants to go outside. He staggers out onto the veranda-- he is quite drunk, so he is busy concentrating on coordinating his feet. He doesn't pay attention to where he is going, and falls off the veranda and lands in a pottery jug that is used to collect rainwater. He is quite a small cat, and he cannot reach the lip of the pot to pull himself out. Eventually, he tires himself out and relaxes into the water to meet his fate. He begins to feel very calm and peaceful, and the novel ends with him repeating how happy he is to be dying.

The introduction in my book theorized that Soseki killed off the poor cat so that he could finally stop writing about him.


Christian (comeauch) | 362 comments Suki wrote: "Christian wrote: "@Suki Pardon my curiosity, but how does it end? :P Anything interesting happening after the first volume?"

*SPOILER WARNING*

The entire second book and most of the third is the ..."


Oh god. That sounds bad... Thanks for the info, it's interesting how this novel seems to have been forced out of Soseki (from the introduction and what you've just said). It's surprising that it's considered such a classic from J-lit. Of course the translation issue isn't helping, but still...


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Carol (carolfromnc) | 1170 comments @Suki, you have saved me from explaining to friends and family why I am crying over a book I didn't like. The cat dies? That's all I need to know.


message 21: by Suki (new) - rated it 3 stars

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 64 comments @Christian and @Carol:

I almost bought this book years ago, but didn't because after I flipped through it I realized that the poor cat died.

In fact, the cat's death is probably the most sensitively written part of the book. Usually something like this will leave me a limp, sobbing puddle, but the way Soseki writes it you feel the cat's joy at the end, and you feel kind of happy for him that he is free from what really wasn't a great life. I think Soseki was quite fond of his little cat.


message 22: by Sorobai (new) - added it

Sorobai | 2 comments thanks everyone for the great spoiler. The cat dies in the end, should I even start reading this expensive and big book now that I know that...


message 23: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1170 comments Suki wrote: "@Christian and @Carol:

I almost bought this book years ago, but didn't because after I flipped through it I realized that the poor cat died.

In fact, the cat's death is probably the most sensitiv..."


Thank you, Suki. This makes sense and helps. I have to finish another 750 pager before starting this, but I appreciate the manner in which you suggest approaching the outcome.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 231 comments Suki wrote: "Christian wrote: "@Suki Pardon my curiosity, but how does it end? :P Anything interesting happening after the first volume?"

*SPOILER WARNING*

The entire second book and most of the third is the ..."


Lol I didn't see that coming. I'm a cat owner/lover myself, but I can see the comedic aspect of killing off your main character to end the book.


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