I Am A Cat – Soseki Natsume

January 18, 2010 § 9 Comments


I find that there is nothing as hard as trying to understand the psychology of male humans.

I couldn’t help it. That quote there is hilarious. And oh-so-true. (Sorry boys!)

I Am A Cat is basically a story narrated by a nameless cat. This nameless cat unwittingly roams into the home of a schoolteacher, and from there on, the cat tells us about his observations of his master, and the very interesting and funny characters who come to visit.

I read the book over an entire month. Towards the second half of the book, or somewhere at the end of volume 2, and beginning of volume 3, I kind of ‘forgot’ what volume 1 was all about. So despite this being a rather thick book, I’m afraid my thoughts on it are going to be very short.

What I really liked about the book was how fresh it felt. I mean, it’s not every day that we get to see the world we know through a cat’s perspective. And this cat is no ordinary cat either. Somewhere along the lines, he decides that he’s more human than feline! I rather enjoyed the book a lot more when it was the cat doing the thinking, rather than when he was just observing what the humans were saying or doing.

The cat is also one that thinks quite highly of himself. I had to laugh when I read this:

Nobody, then, should be so insulting as to read while lying down or to read five lines all at once with the feet stretched out. When Liu Tsung-Yuan read the works of Han T’ui-Chih, a Chinese politician and a man of letters, he always made it a rule to wash his hands and to purify them in rose water first. In reading my work, however, I would only like to ask you to be enthusiastic enough to buy your own copies; do not borrow my books from your friends.

This book reminded me a little of Jonathan Swift somehow. Not as satirical as A Modest Proposal, which I loved. But I think this book did manage to drive home some points with regards to Japanese society.

Most of the characters were actually quite quite ridiculous. Their priorities were all wrong, their thought processes were all over the place. And really, though the cat was definitely one very intelligent cat, he was equally ridiculous. All of this in a good way.

My favourite quote of the book is on page 1. It was something I read to every single person who asked me, “So what are you reading?”

This was probably the first time I had a good look at a so-called “human being”. What impressed me as being most strange still remains deeply imbedded in my mind: the face which should have been covered with hair was a slippery thing similar to what I now know to be a teakettle.

Rating: 3.5


Note: This book was read as part of the Read-Along hosted by Tanabata. The read-along was separated into 3 parts, coinciding with Volumes 1, 2 and 3, for which the discussion for Volume 3 was supposed to have started 2 days ago. Tanabata has since decided to extend the date till a month from now (February 15), so if you’re interested to join, there’s still time!

For: Japanese Literature Challenge 3, Japanese Literature Read-Along with Tanabata


§ 9 Responses to I Am A Cat – Soseki Natsume

  • Ah Yuan says:

    I love the last quote! Gah, I tried looking for this novel and I couldn’t find it anywhereeeeeeeee. My library makes me sad. ToT

  • Susan says:

    Michelle, I enjoyed your post in its entirety, from the opening quote until the ending quote.

    As a cat person (I am also a dog person), I think I’d enjoy this book immensely. But I do think this book would appeal to many others as well, those who appreciate “ridiculous” characters. 🙂

  • aloi says:

    What a great review! I always find stories told from a new perspective such a treat. Gonna list this one on my TBRs

    P.S. what a smart cat to think that opening line ;P

  • mee says:

    I think I’m not gonna finish it in time. I stopped reading after the first volume, because I lack motivation, thinking that I don’t have to read it now, as I already know what’s it all about, pretty much. (I want to finish it, but it doesn’t have to be now.)

    Do you think it gets better after the first volume, or the whole book is similar in tone? Is it worth continuing NOW? 🙂

  • su says:

    @ Ah Yuan: I had to borrow this from the uni library. Hence the uninteresting looking cover/spine.

    @ Susan: I’m a cat person too. =)

    @ aloi: That is definitely one very smart cat. Plenty of good quotes in there.

    @ mee: Hmm.. the rest of the book is pretty much in the same tone. Nothing important really happens, though whatever goes on is bound to be given an interesting spin. Not an urgent read though, which is also the reason why it took me a month to read it. (I normally don’t put off finishing books if I’ve started..)

  • Mark David says:

    Well there is that saying that women are very hard to understand, right? But in a way I guess you’re also right for sometimes I do find women (particularly girls) to be rather obvious or predictable. I guess what the cat points to in saying that male humans are hard to understand is that men can be somewhat repressive or secretive sometimes. It’s not abnormal for us at all to leave our emotions unspoken… at least that’s what I think.

    • Michelle says:

      Haha! Women are *kind of* difficult to understand sometimes. =)

      And I guess you could say that it’s some sort of societal norm that men just don’t express themselves. In some cultures, it’s just not acceptable.

  • I have had my eye on this book for quite a while and think will be asking for it for my birthday in March (I might not be allowed to buy books but people can buy then for me hahaha) and so hopefully will have it to read later in the year as it just sounds brilliant.

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