16 Aug 2014

The Guest Cat, by Takashi Hiraide

Title: The Guest Cat
Writer: Takashi Hiaide
Published by New Directions Publishing Corporation
Translated by Eric Selland 2014

When a young Japanese couple, both writers, rented a house somewhere near the Shinjuku area in a quiet part of Tokyo, they are visited by a female cat, belonging to the small boy next door. Working at home the write and his young wife allow the cat easy access into their home and their lives.

Slowly, without realising it, the cat entwines itself into the very fabric of their lives and every day affairs and into their hearts. The day becomes brighter, the hours  more precious and their events more meaningful with the advent of Chibi, the cat. They even sometimes pretend the cat belongs to them, buying it special tidbits and enjoying its playful habits.

Without them realising it, a year had gone by and the young cat has now become an adult. Sometimes it would even sleep in their house and on their bed. However one day both husband and wife had to go to a dinner party in another part of town and did not come back for the night. The next day they realised the cat had not come to their house and through the next few days they didn't see it either. Both husband and wife became perturbed by the cat's disappearance. Finally the writer goes over to the neighbour's house to find out what had happened. They were told that it had died in an accident - apparently hit by a car. For a long time they mourned the cat's loss and even wanted to see where it had been buried but its owner, the neighbour, became aggressive and even angry when told the cat had visited them every day and even slept in their house sometimes.

Soon the couple moved away and bought their own house not far from the neighbourhood. But one day they were visited by a couple of kittens, a male and female which looked exactly like the guest cat which they had lost. Soon the kittens too visit the couple, now older and just like its predecessor settled in.

A beautifully written book by Japanese poet, takashi Hiraide, this book should be read by animal lovers everywhere, specially by cat lovers. It is about love and loss and love regained. The book reads like poetry, moving and subtly conveying deeply felt emotions of the writer and his wife concerning their guest. A lot of the writing is philosophical. I would definitely recommend this book  and will give it a 5 star rating. A book that will change you and how you look at relationships.

My favourite line from the book is this lines from the first chapter:
" I often remember the appearance of Chibi the cat and the scene in the guest house when she first came inside. It was in the late Autumn of 1988...
There was a narrow space with an earthen floor for the washing machine facing the courtyard, which was a mere partition off from the spacious garden off the big house. One shining, sunny afternoon, through a crack ion the open door,four bright white feet stepped inside the the room's insulated drain bard and with a well-honed curiosity rushing through her entire body, Chibi quietly surveyed the meagre interior." This was the introduction of the book.

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