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The Guest Cat [Kindle Edition]

Takashi Hiraide , Eric Selland
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A wonderful sui generis novel about a visiting cat who brings joy into a couple’s life in Tokyo

A bestseller in France and winner of Japan’s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award, The Guest Cat, by the acclaimed poet Takashi Hiraide, is a subtly moving and exceptionally beautiful novel about the transient nature of life and idiosyncratic but deeply felt ways of living. A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo; they work at home, freelance copy-editing; they no longer have very much to say to one another. But one day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. It leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. Soon they are buying treats for the cat and enjoying talks about the animal and all its little ways. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife — the days have more light and color. The novel brims with new small joys and many moments of staggering poetic beauty, but then something happens….

As Kenzaburo Oe has remarked, Takashi Hiraide’s work "really shines." His poetry, which is remarkably cross-hatched with beauty, has been acclaimed here for "its seemingly endless string of shape-shifting objects and experiences,whose splintering effect is enacted via a unique combination of speed and minutiae."

Editorial Reviews


“What initially reads like free association turns out to be a near-microscopic record of emotion and phenomena.” (Alan Gilbert - The Believer)

About the Author

Takashi Hiraide was born in Moji, Kitakyushu in 1950. He has published numerous books of poetry as well as several books of genre-bending essays, including one on poetics and baseball. He currently lives in the west suburbs of Tokyo with a cat and his wife, the poet Michiyo Kawano.

Eric Selland lives in Tokyo. He is the author of The Condition of Music, Inventions, and Still Lifes.

Product Details

  • File Size: 502 KB
  • Print Length: 146 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (January 21, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,979 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not disappointed in the least! January 23, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This short, poetic novel will surprise you. The sensibility reminds me of a Miyazaki film, with logic taking second place to emotion in a sensitive exploration of love and loss. While it centers on a young couple's relationship, the story isn't really about their relationship. The story is about two human beings opening up to life itself, through their love of a playful cat.

Now, that sounds syrupy, but it's not. It's real. And the Japanese setting is perfectly accessible to an American reader. When I picked it up I planned to read for just a minute or two, but I was too focused to put it down until I had read it straight through, something I haven't done since childhood. A remarkable book.

However, children and dunderheads would not appreciate it. Let them read Garfield.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
“The Guest Cat” written by Takashi Hiraide is a nice story about human alienation, a routine that slowly kills what is most precious in our lives - closeness and love for the people closest to us.

In the center of the story is a young couple who live in a rented Tokyo house. Although given their thirties they are not decades together, their life had already turned into a survival from day to day, while they are doing their copy-editing job at home, having little to say to each other.
And then one day in their home will appear an uninvited guest, a small cat who will be coming back again and again each day bringing a sparkle in their boring and repeating daily routine.
Though they themselves will not notice this lovely animal is slowly becoming much more than a likeable pet of which they take care – this small cat will become a new bond between the two of them, a bridge that will reconnect the two human beings that although together are two lonely persons…

Though very short, this interesting story that comes from the literature that is not so known brings a universal story that nowadays can be told anywhere in the world; busy life, routine, everyday care about (annoying) daily obligations, will lead to the situation that slowly everything that connects us with people with whom we live will be put aside – and if we don’t make an effort, a place where we live and spend time will be turned into a place where really we just sleep together.

The cat is here used by author as symbol; instead any other animal or some joint interest that stands out from work could have been used, providing them escape from everyday routine and help them to start noticing each other again.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Light-filled, bittersweet January 23, 2014
By H. Reed
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved this book. Just as the cat came to this endearing Japanese couple through the crack in their fence and the slight opening of their window, my heart was cracked open that much wider by this story. I tried to keep my distance, but could not - I was sobbing by the end, swept up in the same grief felt by this couple. What was captured perhaps most beautifully, expertly was the paradox of our human yearning to have/own/keep that which is beautiful, perfect, and yet ultimately fleeting and mysterious.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elegant January 27, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Literature has perhaps always been driven by tragedy, and there seems to be growing conviction that only spectacular tragedy of high intensity will do. Honesty, we seem to believe, exists only in the stark and the brutal, and as such, death is not sufficient to the truth of the human condition: we must have violent death, suicide, rape, murder, and/or betrayal. Hiraide's novel rejects this premise. While conviction is not a word one hears often in the discussion of literary fiction, (primarily, I think, because of the word's moral connotations), to write a novel in which no one is killed or violated, in which no one deed has catastrophic consequences, and no dramatic event serves as a hook, takes great conviction. To write such a narrative, one must believe that the dignity and drama of everyday human existence warrants novel-length attention, that a reader need not be bribed with titillating violence or perverse desolation, and moreover that paying such attention will be a boon to the reader.

While The Guest Cat shares aesthetic affinities with Shusaku Endo's Deep River and Yukio Mishma's The Sound of Waves, the novel most closely resembles Fumiko Enchi's The Waiting Years. The Guest Cat is a novel of understated conviction that offers the reader a straightforward story set in a minor key and rendered in precise, simple prose, and the effect is staggering. One feels the depth, intensity, mystery, and urgency of human existence like a pulse in nearly every page and image, and the result of Hiraide's conviction is a novel that invites the reader to rediscover the layers of her/his own existence, to discover how a cat can become something more, something deeply moving that one clings to because s/he must, and because doing so brings her/his life into focus.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unassuming, Playful, & Fragile September 23, 2014
Reading prose written by a poet is itself a work of translation. Adding an actual language translation on top of that shift in writing can make for a challenging read. This book by Japanese poet Takashi Hiraide (as translated by Eric Selland) is certainly easy to consume but difficult to digest, a deceptively short novel that scratches at various themes in colorful vignettes that never quite feed into a specific narrative.

The author and his wife live in a rented cottage in a tiny alleyway. Their immediate neighbors, fellow tenants, adopt a cat who while belonging very much to the house next door makes it his business to adopt the narrator's family as well. Day by day, in quiet moments, Chibi the cat grows ever more entwined in their lives, even as outside events conspire to force change on this idyll. Tragic circumstances will force this little family to accept this transition.

If this novel accomplished nothing else it gave me a thirst for Hiraide's poetry. He writes with simple, clear beauty. Little moments of the cat and the garden are captured in language that is at once intimate and expansive. As a cat person myself I appreciated the description of Chibi's frolicking, contrary nature. The endearment the narrator and his wife felt for this animal, and the affection Chibi displayed for them, is ever present throughout each interaction without dipping into melodrama or sentimentality. Had the novel only been comprised of these tender memories I might have rated it a far better read.

There's a sense that the author felt he needed more to sustain the work, though, and there the story feels flimsy. It may be that I simply do not have an appreciation for this style of Japanese storytelling.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Good story
Published 5 days ago by D. Robin Toews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Short but beautifully written.
Published 7 days ago by Jill Mackay
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Cute Story
Published 21 days ago by amberpep
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Delightful little book.
Published 1 month ago by Walter H. Bell
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A sweet and simple novel. Easy to read but beautifully written in it's appreciation of the ordinary.
Published 1 month ago by Theresa
4.0 out of 5 stars A very Japanese novella
What struck me most about this little story is its very Japanese character. The narrator and his wife (both writers) have rented a little house in a tranquil area, and he... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ralph Blumenau
5.0 out of 5 stars Novel set in Tokyo (Chibi the charming cat)
Enchanting. Mesmerising. Beguiling. Charming. Thoughtful. Lyrical. Moving. Captivating…..

A middle aged couple is living in a quiet suburb of Tokyo, in a small guest... Read more
Published 1 month ago by TripFiction
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love love love this book
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely story about misunderstandings
I keep thinking about this story and the potholes we inadvertently step in by not knowing "the rules of the group" . Read more
Published 3 months ago by Deirdre Cochran
3.0 out of 5 stars Quick and amusing but choppy and wordy at times
I thought this book was good, but not great. While it's billed as fiction, the narrator and his wife (never identified by name), have many similarities to the author of this book,... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jaclyn
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