Book info

I Am A Cat (2001)

I Am a Cat (2001)
Rating
3.72 of 5 Votes: 5
ISBN
080483265X (ISBN13: 9780804832656)
languge
English
series
publisher
tuttle publishing
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I Am A Cat (2001)
I Am A Cat (2001)

About book: Reading this 470-page novel by Natsume Soseki was undeniably tough and its readers' concentration reasonably required. I didn't think I'd finish reading within a definite plan since I've usually regarded my reading, especially in search of enjoyment and consolation from some novels by my favorite authors, as something I can keep going whenever I want to. This idea might look boring to some readers, however, I found reading his biography and some of his shorter works like his "The Tower of London", "Botchan" or "Sanshiro" stimulating, earthbound and witty. Furthermore, we may start by reading this informative website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natsume_... to have an overview background about his literary life and some realted details worth understanding and keeping in mind while reading any novel/short story of his with respect and understanding.I think this is my preamble to my brief review on "I Am a Cat" after I finally reached its final page. As always, I thought I'd like to say something (2-3 points) about it, my advice, my ideas, etc. to share with my Goodreads friends who keep reading/supporting me via the internet unimaginable for this worldwide communication some 15 years ago. First, I found reading 'one of the most original and unforgettable works in Japanese literature' (backcover) quite tedious, wordy and unnecessarily lengthy regarding innumerable narrations by the master's friends (i.e. the master of the cat); some went to more than 2 and 3 pages. I knew such length is rare and we need to respect and admire his writing fluency but it's a bid hard for me to keep reading some pages WITHOUT a paragraph, just imagine and you'd see what I mean.Second, while reading this subtly-amused novel, its readers also gain more information and knowledge on various famous English literary men. For instance, "When Carlyle was presented to the queen, he, being an eccentric and anyway a man totally unschooled in court procedures, suddenly sat down on a chair. All the chamberlains and ladies-in-waiting standing ranged behind the queen began to giggle. Well, not quite. They were about to start giggling when the quen turned around toward them and signaled them also to be seated. Carlyle was thus saved from any embarassment. ..." (p. 443) Or "Sir Francis Bacon observed in his Novum Orgnum that one can only triumph over nature by obeying the laws of nature. ..." (p. 443) And "This stage of the literary figure is already evidenced in England where two of their leading novelists, Henry James and George Meredith, have personailties so strong and so strongly reflected in their novels that very few people care to read them. ..." (p. 457)Third, I found the quotes on a variety of complaints about women interesting and humorous since I've never read them anywhere before. For example: "Next comes Diogenes who, when asked at what age it was best to take a wife, replied, 'For a young man, not yet; for the old man, never.'" (p. 459)"The Emperor Marcus Aurelius compares women to ships because 'to keep them well in order, there is always somewhat wanting.'" (p. 460)" ... Valerius Maximus who answered his own question about the nature by saying, 'She is an enemy to friendship, an inevitable pain, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desired calamity, a honey-seeming poison.'" (p. 460)Finally, I think reading this homorous novel based on the Japanese context in the Meiji era is worth reading provided that its readers should have sufficient literary background on Natsume Soseki as well as their time, sense of humour and persistence regarding reading this lengthy novel the author's hoped to be. There're still more interesting points to raise and discus in which, I think, we leave the task to those eminent Soseki scholar worldwide. As for me, I can't help admiring his genius ( as well as the two translators') in that this dialog deeply suggests a unique cultural way of respecting her (I mean Japan's) honourable practice between the teacher and his/her students. The section concerned is as follows: "Revered teacher," he muttered from his broken trance, "I'm worried sick. What, what, shall I do?" (p. 395) Compared to Thailand, we also have our ways of addressing to show respect to our teachers but I think it's a bit difficult to find a Thai equivalent with equal linguistic and aesthetic meaning when the boy said, "Revered teacher", I wonder if there're other countries having such a respectful address like this. If any, I'd appreciate your information.

Siamo verso la fine dell' epoca Meiji, in cui, dopo la caduta dell'ultimo Shogun Tokugawa e la restaurazione del potere nelle mani dell'imperatore, il Giappone ha cominciato ad aprirsi all'occidente importando usi e costumi sino ad allora sconosciuti.Ed è in questa ambientazione, dove tradizione e modernità convivono in uno strano stato di fusione e contrasto che si svolgono le vicende narrate dal punto di vista di un gatto, ed è proprio giocando su questo che Soseki ci fa uno spaccato della vita dell' epoca.Il gatto (che non avrà mai un nome), viene adottato da piccolo dalla famiglia Musashi composta da una serva, moglie, tre figlie e il marito professore d'inglese (in cui l'autore trasporta un po' di se stesso), con un carattere molto eccentrico e che per questo verrà spesso preso di mira sia dai suoi amici, e non solo, per vari scherzi.Intorno al padrone di casa ruota poi un cast di personaggi molto particolari, tra cui i più importanti sono Meitei ex compagno di studi e che sfrutta la sua intelligenza per organizzare scherzi e burlarsi di tutti, Kangetsu, ex allievo di Musashi, ora laureato in Fisica e dottorando che dovrebbe sposarsi con la Figlia dei Kaneda, famiglia borghese agiata che vive vicino ai Musashi ed infine Tofu, un giovane poeta "moderno" (prima dell' epoca Meiji i poeti componevano solo Haiku, i poeti moderni compongono invece con la metrica occidentale)Ed è il gatto a raccontarci con i suoi occhi quello che succede a questo strano gruppo di personaggi, a descriverci, con il suo particolare modo di interpretare il mondo umano, le vicende che si susseguono con il tempo, cercando di capire gli uomini che lo circondano, maturando lui stesso e passando dallo stato iniziale in cui mantiene dei rapporti anche con altri gatti, a gatto/umano che intrattiene rapporti solo con uomini, ed in particolare con le persone che frequentano casa Kushami.Molti sono i passaggi divertenti in questo libro, come quello in cui il gatto ci descrive i suoi esercizi per tenersi attivo, ma soprattutto sono gli interventi di Meitei a creare queste situazioni, il quale dimostra di usare la sua conoscenza per burlarsi degli altri e ci mostra una caratteristica tipica del comportamento giapponese quando una volta in un ristorante ordina un fantomatico piatto orientale, che in realtà non esiste, e dove il cameriere cerca di soddisfare in tutti i modi il suo cliente e arrivando a dire che ingredienti per quel piatto non sono disponibili al momento, ma se l'onorevole cliente vorrà tornare sarà sicuro di poterglielo preparare.Ed è proprio con l'onore, dei vecchi tempi, e la borghesia moderna e occidentalizzata che cerca di arricchirsi a tutti i costi (qui rappresentata principalmente dai Kaneda) che l'autore pone molte volte l'accento, mostrandoci come in quell 'epoca queste due società convivano e si scontrino. Mushasi essendo infatti molto legato alle vecchie tradizione verrà infatti preso di mira dai Kaneda, sia per l'idea di ostacolare il matrimonio tra Kangetsu e la loro figlia, sia per il suo atteggiamento, in cui appunto conta più l'onore che la ricchezza.Di sicuro per capire appieno il romanzo un minimo della conoscenza della cultura Giapponese è sicuramente d'aiuto (quando il gatto parla di una persona tatuata ai bagni pubblici, è chiaramente uno yakuza, ma per chi non conosce la tradizione non salta subito all'occhio), comunque il glossario e le note del libro aiutano parecchio a non perdersi durante la lettura.Consigliatissimo a chi ama la cultura giapponese, a chi vuole conoscere un mondo molto diverso dal nostro a chi vuole riflettere sorridendo
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Reviews
MoonTea
Filled with the clever wit one would expect from a feline protagonist, and complete with all embellishment of Japanese pride, which I gather was the integral theme. Like a cat, we rarely stray from the house, but instead examine in depth the tiny world of one family in one room. Natsume certainly loves his tangents, from gross exaggerations like comparing a baseball team to "an army poised for war", to frankly befuddling statements such as "with careless care, he...". I have an inkling that the cat's master, Mr. Sneaze is in reality a version of Natsume himself. After all, how many men boasted proud mustaches in those days? And why is it the faults of Mr. Sneaze are so closely examined and ridiculed time and again? It sounds as if through the cat Natsume is really observing himself.The translator undoubtably had his fun with the text. There were so many words I'd never even heard of before, that I began compiling a list, but there ended up being so many that I plum gave up after filling 4 pages!! I know for a fact that the Japanese language is no where near that varied, and I think he confounded the vocabulary for sole purpose of adding to the ridiculousness of scholarly pursuit that plays motif throughout the book. For those with experience in Japan, be prepared to laugh out loud as you come across satire with which I'm sure you're familiar, but I would encourage future readers to stray away from reading this during spare time at work, unless your mind is fully wound and ready to tackle chapter-long ramblings on facetious arguments from characters both rich with coy sarcasm and repulsive with utter obliviousness.
Paul Heaton
'I am a Cat' is the the first of Natsume's "major works", and if this had been the first book of his I'd read, I regret to say it would've probably been my last. Natsume's wit and insight shine within a concisely written story. Here, the author keeps adding lengthy, indulgent, meandering chapters to his original short story, seemingly without any idea of how it would be read as a whole. The original premise of cat's observations of his master and cohorts has its initial, amusing moments. But when the unnamed feline begins to recount tales of ancient Greece and starts to explain Newton's laws of motion it's obvious that the cat-as-narrator device has been stretched way too far. And this is only half way through the novel. 'Botchan' is a far better introduction to Natsume's work, and unperturbed I shall try out another of his later novels, 'Kokoro' next!
John Pappas
Any flaws this comic novel has have to do with pacing, and structure (and this is largely due to how the tale was originally conceived and eventually published) -- the characters are used brilliantly to expose the foibles of a schoolteacher, his friends and neighbors in Meiji era Japan. Seen through the eyes of a curmudgeonly cat, as these these characters wrestle with the changing times and increasing Western influence, they struggle to discover what is of enduring value. Their adventures in seeking status, finding love, creating art and working (or not) serve to help them define what "Japanese" means at the beginning of the 20th century. There is much to enjoy about this novel for the 21st century reader, too. Each character will remind the reader of someone he or she knows, and the changes between the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as how individuals deal with them, must have an amplified analogue in the shifting sands of the early 21st century.
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