The Guest Cat

( 2 )

Overview

A wonderful sui generis novel about a visiting cat who brings joy into a couple’s life in TokyoA 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, freelance copy-editing; they no longer have very much...
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The Guest Cat

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Overview

A wonderful sui generis novel about a visiting cat who brings joy into a couple’s life in TokyoA 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, freelance copy-editing; they no longer have very much to say to one another. But one day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. It leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. Soon they are buying treats for the cat and enjoying talks about the animal and all its little ways. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife — the days have more light and color. The novel brims with new small joys and many moments of staggering poetic beauty, but then something happens….As Kenzaburo Oe has remarked, Takashi Hiraide’s work "really shines." His poetry, which is remarkably cross-hatched with beauty, has been acclaimed here for "its seemingly endless string of shape-shifting objects and experiences,whose splintering effect is enacted via a unique combination of speed and minutiae."
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - V. V. Ganeshananthan
The language and descriptions are careful, elegant and lovely; while Hiraide's book is ostensibly about a cat, it is more precisely about space and ownership. The book renders an unusually intimate, detailed and vivid picture of a place that is simultaneously private and open.
Publishers Weekly
★ 12/02/2013
A husband and wife explore their marriage and life together through the portentous appearance of Chibi, a neighborhood cat, in Hiraide’s newly translated short novel that has claimed prestigious awards and bestseller status in Japan and France. The couple (who go unnamed) live in a small house together without children, both working from home as freelance copyeditors, and have forgotten how to speak to one another. As Chibi comes into the picture, the husband finally begins writing his book, and the couple bonds again in mutual appreciation of the animal, though neither of them particularly like cats. This is a short and subtle story, but remarkable in the number of layers packed into the gorgeous and textured, lolling rhythm of its prose: “After watching her tiny figure leap past the mirror stand and slip through the gap in the hanging strips of cloth onto the pile of cushions in the upper shelf of the closet, I would leave her undisturbed for a while.” The novel takes a nice metafictional turn midway through, as the reader slowly begins to understand that the book the husband is writing is the book he’s narrating. This is a beautiful, ornate read, brimming with philosophical observation, humor and intelligence, leaving the reader anticipating more translated works of Hiraide. (Jan.)
The Believer - Alan Gilbert
“What initially reads like free association turns out to be a near-microscopic record of emotion and phenomena.”
Alan Gilbert - The Believer
“What initially reads like free association turns out to be a near-microscopic record of emotion and phenomena.”
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-24
A winner of Japan's Kiyama Shohei Literary Award captures life's ephemeral nature in a tender narrative about a Tokyo couple's attachment to a neighbor's cat. The simplest of relationships often elicit the most complex emotions, as two freelance editors discover in an eloquent tale written by poet and essayist Hiraide and translated by Selland. The husband and wife, who lease a guesthouse on the grounds of an old estate in Tokyo, have lived quietly since quitting their corporate jobs to work as independent contractors, but though they spend more time together in their tiny space, they seem to communicate less and less. The terms of their lease preclude children and pets, so the couple works in semi-isolation from their home, a section of which abuts a tall wooden fence with a knothole separating the grounds from a narrow alley. The optical illusions created by the reflections of passersby walking through the narrow lane create fleeting patterns of life that vanish into thin air, and the couple dubs the path "Lightning Alley." One day, a small cat appears in the couple's garden, and the man discovers that the young child of a neighboring family has adopted the tiny creature and named it Chibi. Though the cat doesn't belong to them, the couple develops a proprietary feeling for the cat as their lives become more centered around its visits. They begin to take joy in small pleasures as the cat, always on its own terms, slips between their neighbors' home and theirs and even explore options to remain in Chibi's life when they're told they must find a new place to live. A multifaceted tale that explores love and the fragility of life; the author creates an introspective, poetic story that's deeply moving. Cat lovers may be especially moved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811221504
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 1/28/2014
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 31,141
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

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 currently lives in the west suburbs of Tokyo with a cat and his wife, the poet Michiyo Kawano.

Eric Selland lives in Tokyo. He is the author of The Condition of Music, Inventions, and Still Lifes.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    A beautiful little book

    A beautiful little book. If the poet William Carlos Williams had been Japanese, he might have written it. Fair warning...if you must have action, adventure and plot...well, this book isn't for you. This is a quiet, very poetic little book about love and loss. I think my two cats enjoyed watching me read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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