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The Last Black Cat by Eugene Trivizas

The Last Black Cat (2001)

by Eugene Trivizas

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If reading about any of the following: the widespread persecution and mistreatment of cats; the creation of a Pursuit and Annihilation Squad to eliminate them; the cynical complicity of the political establishment, and the manipulation of the media, in a campaign to whip up the general populace into a violent anti-feline frenzy; the horrific (and graphically described) torture and death mercilessly visited upon numerous cute and cuddly cats - is likely to make you feel physically unwell, or give you nightmares (as it did me), then be warned!

Clubbed to death by frenzied mobs, shot and stabbed by armed squads of leering goons, stoned and then stabbed with knitting needles by grandmotherly old ladies, drowned in barrels of hot tar, lured into excruciatingly painful deaths in a pit of quicklime, soaked in petrol and set alight, burned to death while desperately trying to hide, flayed alive in dank basements for their fur - the cats in this story don't fare well. In one particularly heart-breaking scene, an affectionate and cuddly cat named Purrcy - so known because of his tendency to approach any likely human, and purr for all he was worth, in hopes of some petting - is beaten to death as the narrator watches:

"Then I saw a black cat come out of a sidestreet and approach the coachman. I recognized him immediately. It was Purrcy. He went up to the coachman and rubbed himself against his boots, purring like a steam engine. The coachman gave him a hard kick in the ribs and a stunned Purrcy ended up lying on his back on the pavement five feet away. The horses snorted restlessly. Purrcy turned over, got up and was about to leave, puzzled over the unexpected kick, when the coachman, white with rage, approached the cat, raised his horse-whip furiously and brought it down on him with force, without pity, again and again, ignoring Purrcy's desperate cries. I saw the poor animal writhe in pain and turn his bloody muzzle imploringly towards his attacker, as if begging for mercy, but the man went on flogging him savagely until Purrcy moved no more. He had paid dearly for his trusting nature and his yearning for some petting."

This is, I am afraid, just one of many such scenes in Eugene Trivizas' The Last Black Cat (originally published in Greek as Η Τελευταία Μαύρη Γάτα), an allegorical children's novel (!!) that explores the subject of racially motivated persecution, substituting black cats (and eventually, all cats) for a human group. It is immensely effective, in demonstrating how easily manipulated people can be, how ready to seize on any irrational explanation for misfortune, provided it gives them an outlet for their anger, and how terribly cruel they can become, in their behavior to their fellow creatures. Trivizas - whose only other work to be translated into English is the picture-book The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig - uses the age-old superstition about black cats bringing bad luck (which has done enough harm in real life), to explore how destructive and futile such scapegoating can be.

But oh! How traumatic this lesson is, in his hands! I felt physically ill throughout much of the book, and while I don't suppose one should feel indifferent, when considering such issues, I'm not sure that this is a book I would hand to a young reader, or to any reader who was especially sensitive about animal suffering. It just seemed so intensely graphic, for a book aimed at children! (To give a point of comparison, I've read novels about the Holocaust that were less graphic). So, while I appreciate both Trivizas' message, and his skill as a writer - his ability to evoke a strong emotional response in me, as a reader - I can't say that I enjoyed The Last Black Cat, and remain uncertain as to whom I would recommend it. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jul 17, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eugene Trivizasprimary authorall editionscalculated
Zervas, SandyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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to my cat, Agatoula
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Silktail was the first to disappear.
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Book description
In Eugene Trivizas' thrilling new adventure, a streetwise cat helps foil a wicked plan to abduct all the cats on his island."It was a whisper at first. But then we knew. Black cats were disappearing. Silktail was the first. Then Whiny, Giuseppe, Rameses, Blackie, Lothario, and Bijou…" Island life had been good for the street cats…stealing fish, laying in the sun, singing under the stars. This is the story of dark deeds, cool cats, and The Society of the Superstitious. Get your paws on it!
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A cat battles against humans trying eliminate him and his fellow felines from a Mediterranean island.

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