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Paperback I Am a Cat Book


ISBN13: 9780804832656

I Am a Cat

(Part of the I am a Cat Series)

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

"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..." --The New Yorker

Written from 1904 through 1906, Soseki Natsume's comic masterpiece, I Am a Cat, satirizes the foolishness of upper-middle-class Japanese society during the Meiji era. With acerbic wit and sardonic perspective, it follows...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings


I bought the three volume set of this book in 1994 and found it mildly amusing. Now that I'm in academia, I find this book hilarious. It is a fine sendup of pretentious intellectualism--and though there are specifically Japanese references, the humor is universal. Or rather, university-al.

I Am a Cat person....

This is a delightful, and sophisticated novel about the observations of a cat. It most certainly feels, and although a novel, it is as if a cat really wrote it. I first found this book about 16 years ago, and it still entrances me.

Wonderful translation

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. Okay, same problem here. But Ito and Wilson pull it off. For normal people, let's bear in mind that this book is hysterical, if you're a little worldly-wise and a little over-educated. If you know people like the intellectual snobs and elites who populate this book, you're going to love this. You can quickly get over the fact that it's early 20th C. Japan -- academics are academics, and you will recognize them immediately. In case you were wondering, Mr. Sneaze's name, in Japanese, is Mr. Sneeze. Yes, it's a weird name. No, it's not just a name, it's bizarre. I'll conclude with one further remark about translation of this beloved, very funny book, which incidentally is also good for cat lovers (the discussion of appropriate sleeping places based on moral and aesthetic principles, culminating in the assessment that on top of the rice cooker is the correct place for morning naps is very funny if you have a cat), taking up the problem of the title. Wagahai wa neko de aru. (Literally) I Am A Cat. But the problem is that "wagahai" is kind of like the royal "we" taken to extremes; it's a lordly, infinitely superior way of talking, of saying "I". And the "de aru" form is again ultra-formal, just not the way people ever, eve

The cat is a wise guy.

A wise... cat offers its hilarous account of a group of turn-of the-century Japanese pseudo-intellectuals. Things Western are fashionable, but they haven't got it quite right. Cat's master is an incompetent teacher who doesn't seem to do any work and spends most of his time conversing with former students. Also featured are various non-intellectual social climbing neighbors. Has nothing to do with "chinese philosophy", more to do with what your own cat probably thinks of you. A scream, but then I like things Japanese

The best depiction of the Meiji era via a cat on the market.

_I am a Cat_ by Soseki Natsume is the first installment in a three-book tale (if I liked puns, I would have said "tail") of a small cat living with a Japanese family in--not just a coincidence--Japan. He lives during the period of the Meiji Restoration, the revolutionary era in which Japan moves from being a feudal society to a modern one, and is very obvious about being in favor of--in his eyes--the logical, traditional ways over inscrutable Western ones. The stories of his life serve as an allegory for the warring internal schools of thought of turn-of-the-century Japan. Although it suffers the literary hinders that all translations do, _I am a Cat_ is succinctly able to give one a flavor for what is happening. It manages to remain distinctly Japanese even though it is in English. I would recommend it to anyone...regardless of their knowledge of Japan and this time period.
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