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I Am a Cat – Soseki Natsume

 
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Posted August 8, 2016 by

I Am a Cat – Soseki Natsume – 1905

natsume-cat

Posted by Lale on 15/6/2006, 10:46:03

I started reading our June book: I Am A Cat by Natsume Soseki (has anyone else?) and I think it is absolutely delightful. However, it is a big book (mine is three volumes in one) and I am wondering how long “delight” can be sustained without a plot.

What do you think?

Lale

iamacat-bc6  natsume_soseki

Posted by Steven on 15/6/2006, 12:37:42

I am a little past halfway. It only gets more delightful as you go.

You’re right, though, it doesn’t have a plot. Each chapter is a separate story, but there are some themes that carry through the entire work and, of course, the characters are the same.

Mr. Sneaze is my new role model.

Steven

iamacat-bc7    I am a cat 99 I am a cat 88   i am a cat 77
Posted by Shadu on 15/7/2006, 11:32:26

I read that book and absolutely loved it. There can be some slow parts, but it definitely picks up quickly. It took me a good chunk of time, but it was worth it. That book is hands down one of my favorite books I’ve ever read.

soseki10-hp iamacat-bc4

Posted by Steven on 20/6/2006, 14:11:21

Here are three sites with very similar biographical sketches on our author:

http://www.f.waseda.jp/mjewel/jlit/authors_works/modernlit/natsume_soseki.html

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/natsume.htm

http://www.speaking-japanese.com/bio_soseki.html

As you will see from any of these articles, Mr. Sneaze in I Am a Cat is Natsume’s caricature of himself.

This site has a photo of the house in Tokyo where he lived while writing the novel. Sneaze’s house is probably the same:

http://anny.kinjo-u.ac.jp/~nakata/Nakata/Data/Sectors/1Sector/ESoseki.htm

And, lastly, here are photos of a $14,000 gold pen honoring Natsume and his cat:

http://www.stylophilesonline.com/04-05/04cat.htm

iamacat-bc3

Posted by Hanh on 21/6/2006, 2:03:53

I do not mean to be a wuss, but “I Am a Cat” is 600 pages!!

Is this one of those “Origin of the Universe” / “Tale of Genji” / “Infinite Jest” choices where 1% of the people who bought the books actually finished them? [tee hee]

iamacat-bc2

Posted by Steven on 21/6/2006, 9:23:31

: : I do not mean to be a wuss, but “I Am a Cat” is 600 pages!!

Ah, but 600 cat pages is only 86 human pages! Or is it the other way round? Either way, the print is large and the text flows swiftly.

You could stop at the end of Volume 1 as Soseki himself originally intended and save the rest for later. But that would be to miss Mrs Goldfield’s nose, the great battle with the rats, the cat’s observations on human nakedness, and many other treasures.

iamacat-bc5

Posted by Lale on 21/6/2006, 8:14:41

: As you will see from any of these articles, Mr. Sneaze
: in I Am a Cat is Natsume’s caricature of himself.

They both suffer from tummy problems. They are both teachers.

I enjoyed the part where the master keeps buying books and never reads them (the dialogue between Mrs. Sneaze and Waverhouse).

Lale

iamacat-bc11

Posted by Lale on 2/7/2006, 8:54:39

I finished the first volume (which ended, almost in mid-sentence, smack in the middle of a sub-story) and I am a few pages into the next volume. Delightful as it is, the conversations of Waverhouse, Coldmoon and Mr. Sneaze are so nonsensical (or so highly philosophical) that they might as well be taken out of “The Man Who Was Thursday” (G. K. Chesterton).

Lale

iamacat-bc10

Posted by Steven on 3/7/2006, 9:25:06

The final chapter could be an exception – the mood turns somber, and Waverhouse makes some thought-provoking observations on the hopelessness and loneliness of the Western values which Japan is trying to adopt.

iamacat-bc1

Posted by Lale on 6/8/2006, 12:21:49

The more you buy, the more you save!

I’ve been meaning to type this up for a while now. I think it is one of the more delightful passages in “I am a Cat”.

I didn’t read the 2nd and 3rd volumes, I think only Steven did.

What does everyone think of buying book after book, never to read a single one? (I think, as Waverhouse surmises, Mr. Sneaze does indeed read the books, I don’t know why his wife has the notion that he never reads a single one of them.

What do you think the moral of the story with the seventh king of Rome is? That one cannot afford not to buy books?

Lale

I am a cat xx

“He has no secret vices, but he is totally abandoned in the way he buys book after book, never to read a single one. I wouldn’t mind if he used his head and bought in moderation, but no. Whenever the mood takes him, he ambles off to the biggest bookshop in the city and brings back home as many books as chance to catch his fancy. Then, at the end of the month, he adopts an attitude of complete detachment. At the end of last year, for instance, I had a terrible time coping with the bill that had been accumulating month after month.”

“It doesn’t matter that he should bring home however many books he may like. If, when the bill collector comes, you just say that you’ll pay some other time, he’ll go away.”

“But one cannot put things off indefinitely.” She looks cast down.

“Then you should explain the matter to your husband and ask him to cut down expenditure on books,”

“And do you really believe he would listen to me? Why, only the other day, he said, `You are so unlike a scholar’s wife: you lack the least understanding of the value of books. Listen carefully to this story from ancient Rome. It will give you beneficial guidance for your future conduct.'”

“That sounds interesting. What sort of story was it?” Waverhouse becomes enthusiastic, though he appears less sympathetic to her predicament than prompted by sheer curiosity.

“It seems there was in ancient Rome a king named Tarukin.”

“Tarukin? That sounds odd in Japanese.”

“I can never remember the names of foreigners. It’s all too difficult. Maybe he was a barrel of gold. He was, at any rate, the seventh king of Rome.”

“Really? The seventh barrel of gold certainly sounds queer. But, tell me, what then happened to this seventh Tarukin.”

“You mustn’t tease me like that. You quite embarrass me. If you know this king’s true name, you should teach me it. Your attitude,” she snaps at him, “is really most unkind.”

“I tease you? I wouldn’t dream of doing such an unkind thing. It was simply that the seventh barrel of gold sounded so wonderful. Let’s see… a Roman, the seventh king… I can’t be absolutely certain but I rather think it must have been Tarquinius Superbus, Tarquin the Proud. Well, it doesn’t really matter who it was. What did this monarch do?”

“I understand that some woman, Sibyl by name, went to this king with nine books and invited him to buy them.”

“I see.”

“When the king asked her how much she wanted, she stated a very high price, so high that the king asked for a modest reduction. Whereupon the woman threw three of the nine books into the fire where they were quickly burnt to ashes.”

“What a pity!”

“The books were said to contain prophecies, predictions, things like that of which there was no other record anywhere.”

“Really?”

“The king, believing that six books were bound to be cheaper than nine, asked the price of the remaining volumes. The price proved to be exactly the same; not one penny less. When the king complained of this outrageous development, the women threw another three books into the fire. The king apparently still hankered for the books and he accordingly asked the price of the last three left. The woman again demanded the same price as she had asked for the original nine. Nine books had shrunk to six, and then to three, but the price remained unaltered even by a farthing. Suspecting that any attempt to bargain would merely lead the woman to pitch the last three volumes into the flames, the king bought them at the original staggering price. My husband appeared confident that, having heard this story, I would begin to appreciate the value of books, but I don’t at all see what it is that I’m supposed to have learnt to appreciate.”

Having thus stated her own position, she as good as challenges Waverhouse to contravert her. Even the resourceful Waverhouse seems to be at a loss. He draws a handkerchief from the sleeve of his kimono and tempts me to play with it. Then, in a loud voice as if an idea had suddenly struck him, he remarked, “But you know, Mrs. Sneaze, it is precisely because your husband buys so many books and fills his head with wild notions that he is occasionally mentioned as a scholar, or something of that sort. Only the other day a comment on your husband appeared in a literary magazine.”

iamacat

Posted by Steven on 7/8/2006, 10:29:28

I believe that Mr. Sneaze’s indiscriminate buying of books is meant to represent Japan’s unrestrained adoration and imitation of Western culture at that time. His defense, the Tarquin story, is that all knowledge is precious beyond monetary value.

Waverhouse has no immediate comeback. Later, at the end of Volume III, he becomes the most serious member of the group and issues a chilling warning of what is to come of Japan’s abandonment of its traditions and values in the wholesale rush to emulate the West.

I’ll have to try the Tarquin story on my wife one of these days, but she probably won’t be any more sympathetic to my rampant book buying than Mrs. Sneaze.

iamacat-bc12

Posted by Lale on 7/8/2006, 12:12:41

: I’ll have to try the Tarquin story on my wife one of
: these days, but she probably won’t be any more
: sympathetic to my rampant book buying than Mrs. Sneaze.

Good luck! I just tried it on my husband and he said that he would support me in buying a rare book (even if it is expensive) to prevent it from going to ashes but most books at amazon were not in such danger 🙂

Lale

a am a cat 20

 vol1  I am a cat vol 2  vol2

I am a cat 99   I am a cat 88 i am a cat 77   I am a cat 70 I am a cat 60  I am a cat 50 I am a cat 40   I am a cat 30


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