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I Am a Cat: Three Volumes in One by Soseki…
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I Am a Cat: Three Volumes in One (edition 2001)

by Soseki Natsume, Aiko Ito (Translator), Graeme Wilson (Translator)

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1,152267,071 (3.61)130
Member:oboe2000
Title:I Am a Cat: Three Volumes in One
Authors:Soseki Natsume
Other authors:Aiko Ito (Translator), Graeme Wilson (Translator)
Info:Tuttle Publishing (2001), Paperback, 656 pages
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I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki

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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Volume I is hilarious, sharp, and highly recommended; alone, I would have awarded it 5 stars. The stories in Volume II don't seem quite as well put together but are certainly good; 4 stars. These first two volumes are hilarious; although I'm sure I'm missing plenty of cultural nuances, the general observations are applicable to mankind no matter what part of the world or the time period.

Volume III, though it has its moments, is nowhere near as good as the first two volumes. By the last story in Volume III, the cat no longer even feels like a character. Furthermore, the ending is really morbid.

My recommendation is to read all the stories except the very last in Volume III; it has none of the rest of the book's humor, its philosophizing seems to be rather weak in comparison with earlier stories, and its ending is just...incongruous. If I'd read all but the last story, I would've given this book a higher rating.

The translation also felt weird to me - I'm not sure how much of it is the actual translation vs. the way the book was written natively. For one thing, the tense changes randomly, sometimes in the same sentence, from first person present to first person past. There are numerous misspellings and grammatical errors such as missing apostrophes (eg my masters friends instead of my master's friends). And the British slang is laid on so thick that the book kind of loses its sense of place - this story, definitely about Japanese social issues during the late 19th/early 20th century, does not at all feel like it takes place in Japan sometimes. I prefer a 'truer' translation with footnotes to explain, say, what an unfamiliar article of clothing is. For example, the translators use the word "clogs" for shoes that I assume are actually geta.

On the other hand, I appreciate that the translators seem to have made a truly good effort in maintaining various humorous aspects such as puns, plays on words, alliteration and flow, etc.

(SPOILER IN ORDER TO WARN CAT LOVERS) This book does conclude with the cat's death. Furthermore, the death comes about in a very random, morbid manner, which has nothing to do with anything that has happened in the story collection. Essentially, the cat gets drunk and then drowns in a jug of water he accidentally wanders into. The manner of the cat's death is very distressing for me, and I imagine for other animal lovers. It's less the fact that the cat dies, which would have been at best a bittersweet ending, than it is the way in which he dies, which almost makes me wish I didn't read the book at all. ( )
  starmilk | Aug 12, 2016 |
This is a quirky, fun book to read. Written in the first person voice of a stray cat, it tells of the life of a poor English teacher in early 20th century Japan. The teacher has a collection of intellectual friends and the cat observes their foibles and fancies.
Apparently enduringly popular in Japan, I found the book fascinating on two levels - what it says about life in Japan at the time, and for the parallels with life in other parts of the world. For some reason, I found it oddly reminiscent of dilettante life in Edwardian England - the same affected ennui, the same preoccupation with art or literature, the same carelessness over appearances, while carefully complying with appearance.
I read in the author's bio that he spent an unhappy period in England as an adult student, with very limited social activity, so maybe he picked up more of life in England than he later claimed.
Read July 2016 ( )
  mbmackay | Aug 4, 2016 |
I am a Cat is a beautifully crafted work of social commentary and a wonderful example of Japanese literature. The story is told through the inner monologues of a nameless housecat, but it is not so much about the cat as it is about the people it comes into contact with. The first part is largely comprised of the cat and its interactions with other cats, interspersed with witty monologues regarding the cat's master and his scholarly friends. As the story progresses to volume two however, the cat becomes far more interested in the affairs of men, and its monologues take on a more critical and thought provoking tune as the cat gains more human characteristics. As it is then during the latter parts of the book are often taken up by the cat overhearing interesting conversations amongst the master and his friends, interspersed with the occasional interjection by the cat every few pages. Consequently one may forget that the cat is even there at some points; but the interactions between the book's colourful characters are so interesting that you probably won't care all that much.

I will make one final note on the English translation. The translation by Tuttle flows beautifully and seems very well written (you won't realise it is a translation work) but I do believe it may have taken a few liberties with the original text in order to be more accessible to a wider audience. This does however make it flow very well and means anyone can pick it up without any knowledge of Japan during the Meiji era without losing out too much, so I would say it is a very good trade off.

All in all, a wonderful novel that I would highly recommend to anybody. I am now inclined to check Soseki's other work to see if this high level of quality is present throughout his bibliography.

( )
  hickey92 | Jan 24, 2016 |
Reviewing this book is complicated for me because I had a fairly wide variety of reactions to it. First of all, I can best describe it as a Japanese version of "Waiting For Godot" although the play is fairly brief and this is a 470 page novel. It also is reminiscent of "La Nausee" by Albert Camus. It is a narration of the absolute absurdity of human beings, as perceived by the narrator, who is a cat without a name. It is filled with Dickensian characters such as Beauchamp Blowlamp, the Goldfields (wealthy snobs), and Mr. Sneaze (a self-absorbed hypochondriac and owner of the unnamed cat), just to name a few. I laughed out loud more times than I can count and sent a list of favorite quotes about cats to my feline loving brother. Witty, existential, uncomfortable, confusing, and profound. Originally published in installments, I can see how the length was irrelevant at the time of the original publication. And frankly, I cannot say what I would cut!! I thought about giving it four stars because it dragged at times, but I ended up giving it five stars because it is unique, because it is thought-provoking around the meaning of existence, because of the marvelous characters and lastly, because I do not often laugh out loud when reading, but the humor in this novel is marvelous and drew me through the slower parts quickly in anticipation of whatever would come next. Tough ending, but it worked. ( )
  hemlokgang | Sep 9, 2014 |
What a meandering read. And what an ending. I enjoyed parts of this book, but never fully cared about any of the characters. This made it harder to get through. I also didn't like the way it changed from being the catlike viewpoint of the cat, to being the anthropomorphised viewpoint of the cat, to finally being a series of observations that happened to be presented as being the viewpoint of the cat. I'm glad I read other works by Sōseki first, because if this had been my first encounter with him, I might have wondered what the fuss was about. ( )
  missizicks | Apr 9, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Natsume Sōsekiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ito, AikoTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, GraemeTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I am a cat.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 080483265X, Paperback)

Written over the course of 1904-6, Soseki's comic masterpiece, I Am a Cat, satirizes the follies of upper-middle-class Japanese society during the Meiji era. With acerbic wit and sardonic perspective, it follows the whimsical adventures of a world-weary stray kitten who comments on the follies and foibles of the people around him.

The New Yorker called it "a nonchalant string of anecdotes and wisecracks, told by a fellow who doesn't have a name, and has never caught a mouse, and isn't much good for anything except watching human beings in action..."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:49 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

I Am a Cat, satirizes the follies of upper-middle-class Japanese society during the Meiji era.

(summary from another edition)

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