The Travelling Cat Chronicles – Hiro Arikawa

March 7, 2019 § 2 Comments

First published in Japanese in 2015
Translated into English by Philip Gabriel in 2017

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Nana didn’t used to be called Nana. In fact, he didn’t have a name before the human Satoru came into his life, quite by accident. Nana had a favourite place to sleep, you see, and it just so happened to be on the bonnet of a silver van that incidentally belonged to Satoru. One day, Satoru approaches Nana, and the two of them establish a kind of connection. Then, when Nana gets involved in a car accident, the first human he thinks of is Satoru.

That is how Nana left his stray cat days behind him, and how he came to be Satoru’s cat.

Much of the story is told from Nana’s point of view, and I was immediately reminded of the book I Am A Cat by Sōseki. In fact, Arikawa refers to the master’s great work in the very first line of her book.

I am a cat. As yet, I have no name. There’s a famous cat in our country who once made this very statement.

I don’t own any pets, but I know for a fact that if I ever was to have a pet, it would most definitely be a cat. I have a soft spot for these elegant felines, the way they seem to have great instincts and such a high regard for themselves. And in a way, Nana’s voice came across exactly like that, in very clear and distinct tones.

He was sarcastic, shooting straight from the hip; no excuses, no exceptions. And it was endearing. Because he was also such a lovely, loving character. The disdain in his voice felt like disguise for what was an enormous love that he had for Satoru.

This book felt magical to me. It had a wealth of emotions that never felt overpowering or forced. In typical Japanese fashion, everything was subdued, tempered, and yet so so powerful.

It’s been a while since I’ve read something that had such an impact on me. It’s not a book I will forget any time soon.

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Read as part of Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge 12.

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§ 2 Responses to The Travelling Cat Chronicles – Hiro Arikawa

  • Bellezza says:

    What a magnificent review! I agree with every sentence and every sentiment you expressed. I gave it to an elderly friend after I finished it, and she called me last week crying. “But, I loved it!”, she said. “There was hope, too.” And that’s the thing. This book is tender and sad and hopeful all at once, while telling of the tremendous friendship between Saturo and Nana. I’m so glad you read it, and loved it, too. xo

    • Michelle says:

      I have to say, I cried, too. It was just so moving, and heartbreaking. And still so hopeful, like you said. I almost don’t want to return the book to the library, now.

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