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I Am a Cat: Three Volumes in One Paperback – September 1, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A nonchalant string of anecdotes and wisecracks, told by a fellow who doesn't have a name." —New Yorker

Language Notes

Text: English, Japanese (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Tuttle Classics
  • Paperback: 638 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080483265X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804832656
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Christopher I. Lehrich on November 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
I am shocked, deeply shocked, by comments that this is a poor translation. The original text is phenomenally complex, with interwoven puns and jokes and references to make an ordinary translator weep. Most such translations are stilted, painful to read except as "cribs" for students.

But this one, well. Heh.

Okay, consider this:

"I've just been visiting a businessman and, according to him, the only way to succeed is to practice the 'triangled technique': try to escape your obligations, annihilate your kindly feelings, and geld yourself of the sense of shame. Try-an-geld. You get it? Jolly clever, don't you think?"

This is a remark from one of the various intellectual snobs who are dominant characters here. Now if you can't guess, and I suppose several of the reviewers here can't, there is a complicated pun in the original (my wife teaches Japanese literature and deals with the originals, you see). But the point is that it's sort of funny, but really it's just a play on words that's a little too labored to be funny. It's a joke for the sort of intellectual snobs that find this kind of thing amusing. And that's exactly what comes across with this "try-an-geld" thing. Brilliant!

I know a professor who teaches Japanese literature who started working through the original and this translation with his students. At every turn, they found another deft and elegant in-joke turned into a deft and elegant English variant. It's not perfect, but this is as close to a perfect translation as you're ever likely to find.

For those of you who know a lot about literature, consider translating Nabokov -- let's say Lolita or Pale Fire -- into Chinese, a totally uninflected language. Can you say, "pain"? Insanely difficult.
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Format: Paperback
I picked up I AM A CAT while browsing one day and almost put it back because I didn't feel like reading a book of its heft (it's over 600 pages) at that moment. But I read the first few pages and realized I had a gem and finished the book in a couple of weeks. The first person (cat) voice of the narrative is inspired. As other reviews have said, Soseki Natsume offers an amusing commentary human nature particularly of academics and hypochondriacs. However, he also offers a closely observed and humorous commentary on cat behavior that can come only from living in close proximity to a cat. Moments when the cat describes his shock on seeing his first human with it's horribly bald face, or his attempt to keep his dignity after finding the theft and eating of a sticky rice ball more difficult than he anticipated are priceless for their humor and vivid description. It is true, however, that as the book progresses the cat's stories become increasingly focused on the humans around him.
I am not in a position to offer an opinion on the translation, however, this book was my introduction to Soseki and I have since read several of his other works in various translations and find this book to be consistent with the style, tone and humor of that emerges from other translations of his writings.
I also found I AM A CAT highly readable. It was originally published serially over many years, and the short vignettes it offers allow one to pick it up and put it down without losing the thread of an overarching story. Additionally, the format of many short stories allows some to be more humorous and other to be more philosophical even poignant and in the best of the stories all three at once. It is a highly imaginative, thoughtful and funny set of stories about human foibles.
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Format: Paperback
"I Am A Cat" has endured as one of the classics of modern Japanese literature. Everyone I have met from Japan knows it, and it has a deserved place among the best to come from any Japanese author at any time. That said, it is not a light weight book, either physically or mentally.

Set in the early 1900's during a turbulent period of Japan's history, (Japan was at war with Russia and undergoing much social change at the time too), the book is written from the point of view of a cat that was taken in by a teacher of the English Reader. The cat observes various aspects of human life, endeavour and habit, and makes some cutting remarks at times about human stupidity. Don't be fooled by the cat's reference to his "Master". It is a term of convenience, it would seem, and not one indicative of any felt humility on the part of the cat.

The cat makes astute and rather funny observations about human intellectual and artistic endeavour, along with anything else that is in his view. That includes the act of bathing. All along, the cat offers his viewpoint, opinions, advice and general commentary, as well as some deeper philosophical or religious thought. Basically, the cat takes a stab at just about everything. I particularly laughed at his description of the English language. The cat just doesn't hold back.

At over 600 pages, this book is a solid read, but one worth the effort to get through. It is a great book, witty in its observations, cuttingly accurate at times, (even in our own time, it might be said), and just generally a fantastic read. As an added bonus, cat owners will see much of their own pets in the cat of this book. "Master" just isn't the right term.
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