The feline guest that stayed in its neighbours' hearts


    Oct 05, 2015

    The feline guest that stayed in its neighbours' hearts

    IF YOU'RE a cat lover, you'll be attracted to The Guest Cat the moment you see its cover, which features an adorable illustration - based on a painting by Leonard Foujita of a cat - under its title.

    The 140-page novel will not betray cat lovers' expectations - so vividly and precisely does it depict a cat's behaviour.

    Even if you're not a cat lover, this book is certainly worth reading.

    Written by novelist and poet Takashi Hiraide, The Guest Cat won the Shohei Kiyama Literary Prize in Japan and became a bestseller in both France and the United States. It was also translated into Spanish.

    Before the English edition's release, a French translation was published in 2004 as Le Chat Qui Venait Du Ciel (The Cat Who Came From Heaven), a title that well reflects the essence of the novel.

    The story revolves around a childless married couple in their 30s, a freelance writer and a proofreader, who live in a rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo. The reader will soon realise the story - about the happy days the couple spend with a cat named Chibi and the unexpected parting with the beloved creature - is based on Hiraide's real experience. Chibi, which belonged to a neighbour, was indeed a guest.

    Hiraide meticulously portrays various incidents involving the cat. For instance, he describes the day when the cat entered the couple's house for the first time.

    Up to that point, the couple simply enjoyed watching the cat playing in their tiny garden: "I often remember the appearance of Chibi the cat, and the scene in the guesthouse when she first came inside... One shining, sunny afternoon, slipping through a crack in the open door, four bright white feet stepped softly onto the room's insulated drain board..."

    Hiraide's portrayals of nature and life are surprisingly intricate, delicately describing how the couple's life gradually became more colourful with the guest cat's emergence, how it captured their hearts and how the couple's life later suddenly became dull with the loss of the cat.


    The Guest Cat is available at Books Kinokuniya for $18.95.