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I Am a Cat

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I am a cat. As yet I have no name. So begins one of the most original and unforgettable works in Japanese literature. Richly allegorical and delightfully readable, I Am a Cat is the chronicle of an unloved, unwanted, wandering kitten who spends all his time observing human nature - from the dramas of businessmen and schoolteachers to the foibles of priests and potentates. I am a cat. As yet I have no name. So begins one of the most original and unforgettable works in Japanese literature. Richly allegorical and delightfully readable, I Am a Cat is the chronicle of an unloved, unwanted, wandering kitten who spends all his time observing human nature - from the dramas of businessmen and schoolteachers to the foibles of priests and potentates. From this unique perspective, author Sōseki Natsume offers a biting commentary - shaped by his training in Chinese philosophy - on the social upheaval of the Meiji era. I Am a Cat first appeared in ten installments in the literary magazine Hotoguisu (Cuckoo), between 1905 and 1906. Sōseki had not intended to write more than the short story that makes up the first chapter of this book. After its great critical and popular success, he expanded it into this epic novel, which is universally recognised as a classic of world literature.


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I am a cat. As yet I have no name. So begins one of the most original and unforgettable works in Japanese literature. Richly allegorical and delightfully readable, I Am a Cat is the chronicle of an unloved, unwanted, wandering kitten who spends all his time observing human nature - from the dramas of businessmen and schoolteachers to the foibles of priests and potentates. I am a cat. As yet I have no name. So begins one of the most original and unforgettable works in Japanese literature. Richly allegorical and delightfully readable, I Am a Cat is the chronicle of an unloved, unwanted, wandering kitten who spends all his time observing human nature - from the dramas of businessmen and schoolteachers to the foibles of priests and potentates. From this unique perspective, author Sōseki Natsume offers a biting commentary - shaped by his training in Chinese philosophy - on the social upheaval of the Meiji era. I Am a Cat first appeared in ten installments in the literary magazine Hotoguisu (Cuckoo), between 1905 and 1906. Sōseki had not intended to write more than the short story that makes up the first chapter of this book. After its great critical and popular success, he expanded it into this epic novel, which is universally recognised as a classic of world literature.

30 review for I Am a Cat

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    One of my favourite books of all time, I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki is a comic masterpiece. Set in Tokyo before the WWI, the primary character is the author's cat who wanders around the neighbourhood picking up bits of conversation and making fun of its owner and his relationship with his wife and neighbours and students. Words escape me to describe how incredibly funny and perceptive this book it and what a pure pleasure it is to read. If you read one Soseki book besides Botchan, make it this One of my favourite books of all time, I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki is a comic masterpiece. Set in Tokyo before the WWI, the primary character is the author's cat who wanders around the neighbourhood picking up bits of conversation and making fun of its owner and his relationship with his wife and neighbours and students. Words escape me to describe how incredibly funny and perceptive this book it and what a pure pleasure it is to read. If you read one Soseki book besides Botchan, make it this one!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    I've been a cat now for what seems like an eternity. If anyone asks you what it's like to be a cat, hand them a copy of the book and walk rapidly away. Reading the book has been a lot like having a cat as a pet -- occasionally delightful, sometimes insightful, and frequently annoying. I Am a Cat was written by Japanese author Soseki Natsume at the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s. It's a gentle satire told from the point of view of a household cat in the home of a teacher of I've been a cat now for what seems like an eternity. If anyone asks you what it's like to be a cat, hand them a copy of the book and walk rapidly away. Reading the book has been a lot like having a cat as a pet -- occasionally delightful, sometimes insightful, and frequently annoying. I Am a Cat was written by Japanese author Soseki Natsume at the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s. It's a gentle satire told from the point of view of a household cat in the home of a teacher of modest means and abilities. Most of the book listens in on the discussions the teacher, his wife, and his friends have about everyday life, love, and bureaucracy. It's more insightful than I feared it might be, but less engaging than I hoped it would be, mostly because the household that the cat occupies is a humdrum one. An occasional visitor provides most of the liveliness; he's a wit with a propensity for telling silly stories that promise a great payoff and usually fail to deliver. If you're curious about Japanese life around 1900 or you really, really, really love cats, then read the first 100 pages of this book. That will give you more than enough of an idea of the book as a whole.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kimley

    "I've had enough of being farted at by weasels and crippled with side-swipes from the fishmonger's pole" I feel your pain Rickshaw Blacky. I feel your pain! ----------------- This book is best read with a nice fat cat curled up in your lap purring away... while you are fidgeting, ever so slightly so as not to disturb the cat but attempting to figure out how to comfortably read since the cat is sleeping precisely where you would usually rest this nearly 500 page tome. The cat is sitting there "I've had enough of being farted at by weasels and crippled with side-swipes from the fishmonger's pole" I feel your pain Rickshaw Blacky. I feel your pain! ----------------- This book is best read with a nice fat cat curled up in your lap purring away... while you are fidgeting, ever so slightly so as not to disturb the cat but attempting to figure out how to comfortably read since the cat is sleeping precisely where you would usually rest this nearly 500 page tome. The cat is sitting there thinking "heh, what a moron!" and before you know it you have been punk'd my friend - suckered in and made a total fool of. You are that feline's bitch! And if you're not careful you just may find yourself the subject of a hysterical book that is a wonderful social satire through the eyes of a cat. Now you don't actually need to be a cat fancier to enjoy this book. It's simply a device used as an external viewpoint on us crazy humans. While there are occasions where the appreciation of the feline species will give you some extra laughs, the majority of the book feels like an old-fashioned omniscient narrator tale. Even the no-name cat remarks on his uncanny ability to read human minds and decipher the psychology behind our actions. Soseki studied/taught English literature and spent some time in England and while you never forget that you are in Japan, this reads very much like a turn of the century (19th/20th) British farce à la Oscar Wilde or P.G. Wodehouse. Though some of this could also be due to the translation but the kind of social send-ups seem very anglo-saxon to me - misunderstandings and/or disregard of social rank, malaprops, confused identities... Nearly every page has a juicy quotable tidbit. It did get unexpectedly slightly heavy at the end which wasn't quite in tune with the tone of the rest of the book but wildly amusing throughout and a perfect summer read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    I Am a Cat is a long book full of wordplay, complicated farcical sequences, obscure cultural references, long philosophical digressions and obtuse allusions to Chinese literature. It reminds me in parts of P.G. Wodehouse, Monty Python, Studio Ghibli films and Roald Dahl. Our lovable narrator is an unnamed cat lounging around a Tokyo household in the early years of the 20th century. We learn a lot about feline behaviour but this is mostly a book about people; the cat is always listening, and I Am a Cat is a long book full of wordplay, complicated farcical sequences, obscure cultural references, long philosophical digressions and obtuse allusions to Chinese literature. It reminds me in parts of P.G. Wodehouse, Monty Python, Studio Ghibli films and Roald Dahl. Our lovable narrator is an unnamed cat lounging around a Tokyo household in the early years of the 20th century. We learn a lot about feline behaviour but this is mostly a book about people; the cat is always listening, and judging. Through kitty eyes Soseki leaks his compassionate but cynical view of human nature and life in modern Japan. His humour is archaic, rambling, at times difficult in its excess but very rewarding. Aiko Ito & Graeme Wilson have done a great job of the translation which I'm sure wasn't easy. Anyone can write a disturbing novel, but I'm really impressed when I laugh.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    5/5 stars | Favorite Standalones Decided to bump this up because it's definitely a book that's stuck with me and has a firm place in my heart. Still deciding whether or not to deem it as an official fave or not though! 4/5stars Now, that rating might seem a bit low considering how, if you've spoken to me or seen my videos, you know I was obsessed while reading this book. But I shall explain. Let me begin with I LOVED the idea of this book. Anyone who knows me knows I ADORE cats - my cat Cody is the 5/5 stars | Favorite Standalones Decided to bump this up because it's definitely a book that's stuck with me and has a firm place in my heart. Still deciding whether or not to deem it as an official fave or not though! 4/5stars Now, that rating might seem a bit low considering how, if you've spoken to me or seen my videos, you know I was obsessed while reading this book. But I shall explain. Let me begin with I LOVED the idea of this book. Anyone who knows me knows I ADORE cats - my cat Cody is the light of my life, I coddle him and love him more than anything. So when I heard about a novel that is literally told from a cat's POV, I HAD to get it. This story is a bind up of 3 volumes told from a stray tabby cat with no name who wanders into the mansion of a professor who decides to let him stay and live there. It is about his years living with his owner and all the drama and adventures throughout his life. I really enjoyed this whole idea because it was basically just a very unique way for the author to poke fun at the human race and all our flaws because mostly this little unnamed tabby cat would watch his owner do something and then make witty comments about how stupid and horrible humans are - such as how heartless they are when the unnamed cat's friend had kittens and her humans killed them all, how abusive they can be to animals who they think are lesser than them by not feeding this little cat, how stupid they are for walking on two legs when they have four available to them, and how they selfish they are. This book is 100% for any cat owner because, at least personally, I found myself laughing outloud at some of the comments this cat made, but also staring at the page in awe realizing I did the same things that this cat was pointing out were so horrible. I also thought the cat's voice was wonderful - because he sounded exactly how I imagine my cat, Cody, sounding if he was every able to speak. The reason this wasn't a 5/5stars was simply because, by the end, I was skimming through PAGES of this novel because I was so bored with the human's drama. There were very long winded paragraphs and pages detailing the tabby's owner's life and drama with his friends, and most of their stories were very boring and I found myself just not caring to read them and skipping to when the tabby was going on his own adventures. Therefore, since I skimmed a good chunk of pages, I felt it wasn't right giving it 5/5stars. Also, that ending though, wtf Natsume Soseki that was fucking uncalled for. Amazing book! Highly recommend!!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    "I am a cat" is a "slow-reading" book. There's not much action in it and it's all about the cat's opinion on everything: especially people. It actually speaks, in a very particular way, of mediocrity. The cat describes the routine of its master, a japanese man that teaches english in 1904 Japan, and the way he deals with life. The descriptions are very rich and the references to other works are diverse and intriguing, compelling you to know more about japanese classic literature. All things "I am a cat" is a "slow-reading" book. There's not much action in it and it's all about the cat's opinion on everything: especially people. It actually speaks, in a very particular way, of mediocrity. The cat describes the routine of its master, a japanese man that teaches english in 1904 Japan, and the way he deals with life. The descriptions are very rich and the references to other works are diverse and intriguing, compelling you to know more about japanese classic literature. All things considered, it's an entertaining read with substance. Good for reconsidering your self-image.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sebarashii

    I Am A Cat is a book that I can read over and over and over again wiothout getting bored. In turns humorous, literate and brilliantly ahead of it's time, the original Japanese is translated extremely well by the team and the humour and comical restraint of the Japanese original text is expertly done, nonchalantly doing the job of making a good book open to a deservedly wider audience. The book does go on a bit at times, but that is perfectly in keeping with the central conceit of observing and I Am A Cat is a book that I can read over and over and over again wiothout getting bored. In turns humorous, literate and brilliantly ahead of it's time, the original Japanese is translated extremely well by the team and the humour and comical restraint of the Japanese original text is expertly done, nonchalantly doing the job of making a good book open to a deservedly wider audience. The book does go on a bit at times, but that is perfectly in keeping with the central conceit of observing and annotating on the humans who surround the titular as yet unnamed cat. Best read in chunks rather than as one piece, the book cannot really be faulted in any way except for ending just when we want more. Forget plot, just enjoy the brilliant characterisation and playful use of vocabulary by the author and you can't go wrong. An excellent period piece satire on the ever more enlightened Japan that the characters were living in, I Am A Cat is an essential read for anyone with, a)an interest in humour and b)an interst in Japan turned into the place it is today. Seba Rashii.

  8. 4 out of 5

    John Pappas

    Any flaws this comic novel has have to do with pacing, and structure (and this is largely due to how the tale was originally conceived and eventually published) -- the characters are used brilliantly to expose the foibles of a schoolteacher, his friends and neighbors in Meiji era Japan. Seen through the eyes of a curmudgeonly cat, as these these characters wrestle with the changing times and increasing Western influence, they struggle to discover what is of enduring value. Their adventures in Any flaws this comic novel has have to do with pacing, and structure (and this is largely due to how the tale was originally conceived and eventually published) -- the characters are used brilliantly to expose the foibles of a schoolteacher, his friends and neighbors in Meiji era Japan. Seen through the eyes of a curmudgeonly cat, as these these characters wrestle with the changing times and increasing Western influence, they struggle to discover what is of enduring value. Their adventures in seeking status, finding love, creating art and working (or not) serve to help them define what "Japanese" means at the beginning of the 20th century. There is much to enjoy about this novel for the 21st century reader, too. Each character will remind the reader of someone he or she knows, and the changes between the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as how individuals deal with them, must have an amplified analogue in the shifting sands of the early 21st century.

  9. 4 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    ‘I am a Cat’ is a little sad and a bit farcical at the same time, kind of like an American television family sitcom if the show was written by doctorate candidates of philosophy, the arts and literature. Written by Japanese author Soseki Narsume in 1904, it is a wordy intellectual essay about family, society, and ideas clothed over by a story of what a nameless cat observes. The neglected kitty, who narrates the story, is never given a name, but he has a bird’s eye view, so to speak, of his ‘I am a Cat’ is a little sad and a bit farcical at the same time, kind of like an American television family sitcom if the show was written by doctorate candidates of philosophy, the arts and literature. Written by Japanese author Soseki Narsume in 1904, it is a wordy intellectual essay about family, society, and ideas clothed over by a story of what a nameless cat observes. The neglected kitty, who narrates the story, is never given a name, but he has a bird’s eye view, so to speak, of his Japanese 'master', Sneaze, and his master's wife and children, Tonko, Sunko, and a baby (the oldest is six), his neighbors and university friends. The novel is not about the cat, but instead about the scholastic ideas of school teacher Sneaze, and his old university friends who visit and discuss academically the neighbors, each other and society. A few mild absurd domestic incidents and squabbles occur, and the friends discuss these ordinary mundane affairs with humor and intellectually facile joking or insight. Eventually, their discussions wander into more bookish and philosophical aspects of the intellect (Japanese and British), some of which are vaguely related to their original conversation subjects. Avalon Coldmoon and Waverhouse (my favorite human character) most often visit Sneaze, but drop-ins include Beauchamp, Madame Goldfield (a neighbor businessman's wife who hates Sneaze), Suzuki Tōjūrō (Mr. Goldfield's right-hand man but still a friend, having gone to university with Sneaze), and Tatara Sampei, mining company lawyer, who asks if he can cook and eat the cat after a burglary (the cat failed to stop a burglar). The cat has a few adventures in his backyard and in the yards of his neighbors, overhearing sometimes human conversations of servants and neighbors as well as those of his master's. This sometimes leads to his own opinionated and educated discourses on what he has heard for the edification of us readers on the cat viewpoint - never very far from the human viewpoint, actually. Clearly this novel will not be to the taste of many readers, even those who enjoy literary reads. There is not much action, and almost every scene is involving pages of intellectual conversation inside the Sneazes' Tokyo home. If one enjoys reading The Atlantic Magazine, or books of essays, this is a good read. If you love your kitty dearly, this book will definitely not satisfy you. The cat is a literary paw for the author, and regretfully, does not matter to anyone much especially in the end. Despite the cat's erudition, it is all for nought. Just for fun: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meiji...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul Michaels

    'I am a Cat' is the the first of Natsume's "major works", and if this had been the first book of his I'd read, I regret to say it would've probably been my last. Natsume's wit and insight shine within a concisely written story. Here, the author keeps adding lengthy, indulgent, meandering chapters to his original short story, seemingly without any idea of how it would be read as a whole. The original premise of cat's observations of his master and cohorts has its initial, amusing moments. But 'I am a Cat' is the the first of Natsume's "major works", and if this had been the first book of his I'd read, I regret to say it would've probably been my last. Natsume's wit and insight shine within a concisely written story. Here, the author keeps adding lengthy, indulgent, meandering chapters to his original short story, seemingly without any idea of how it would be read as a whole. The original premise of cat's observations of his master and cohorts has its initial, amusing moments. But when the unnamed feline begins to recount tales of ancient Greece and starts to explain Newton's laws of motion it's obvious that the cat-as-narrator device has been stretched way too far. And this is only half way through the novel. 'Botchan' is a far better introduction to Natsume's work, and unperturbed I shall try out another of his later novels, 'Kokoro' next!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Watt

    This book was a DRAG. I was recommended this book by one of the funniest people I have ever met while I was touring Vietnam so I assumed this book would therefore follow his humor and also be hilarious. Boy, was I wrong. The book is described as a "satire" but only 15% of the book is from the cat's perspective. The rest is just drawn out conversations which are hard to follow between old Japanese men. Occasionally, the author reminds the reader that the cat is in fact telling the story but only This book was a DRAG. I was recommended this book by one of the funniest people I have ever met while I was touring Vietnam so I assumed this book would therefore follow his humor and also be hilarious. Boy, was I wrong. The book is described as a "satire" but only 15% of the book is from the cat's perspective. The rest is just drawn out conversations which are hard to follow between old Japanese men. Occasionally, the author reminds the reader that the cat is in fact telling the story but only rarely which is a shame because that is how the book is marketed. Overall, I'm pretty disappointed and am happy to be done with it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jie Hao

    amazing and ridiculous in equal venture, this book possesses surprising foresight for something written in 1906. supposedly a satirical take on japanese society during the meiji period, some of the observations hold true for humankind as a whole. some of the ideas that intrigued me in the book: Nobody at all, not even Alexander the Great or Napoleon, has ever felt satisfied with his or her conquests. Take a more homespun case. You meet a man, you take a scunner to him, you get into a quarrel, amazing and ridiculous in equal venture, this book possesses surprising foresight for something written in 1906. supposedly a satirical take on japanese society during the meiji period, some of the observations hold true for humankind as a whole. some of the ideas that intrigued me in the book: Nobody at all, not even Alexander the Great or Napoleon, has ever felt satisfied with his or her conquests. Take a more homespun case. You meet a man, you take a scunner to him, you get into a quarrel, you fail to squash him, you take him to court, you win your case: but if you imagine that that’s an end to the matter, you’re most lamentably mistaken. For the real issue, the problem in your mind remains unsettled, however hard you wrestle it around, until your dying day. The same truth applies in every context you may care to posit. You happen, perhaps, to live under an oligarchic government which you dislike so much that you replace it with a parliamentary democracy, but, finding you’ve only hopped out of a frying pan into a fire,you run the risks of civil commotion merely to find another, no less searing, form of government. Or you find a river troublesome, so you bridge it; you are blocked by a mountain, so you tunnel through; it’s a bore to walk or ride, so you build a railway. On and on it goes, with no solution solving the real problem of a positivist’s dissatisfaction. ^ food for thought for those contemplating singaporean politics at the moment ” You are always free to say what you like. But generally you don’t say anything. You just talk.” “To be self-aware when one is actually being kind to other people may be all right, … but being self-aware does make it that much harder to be genuinely kind.” ^ as discussed in the last class outing i attended Moreover, since it is eternally right to do unto others as one would wish done to oneself the moral obligation to commit suicide implies an equally moral obligation to commit murder. never thought about it in that way. an interesting way of looking at the moral considerations of suicide. at times hard to digest, but a very worthwhile read nevertheless :)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor

    For me, this was a rare DNF. Even for my Book Club, I can take only so much tedium. The book is actually a series of articles and I suspect that Soseki was being paid by the word, as he pads it out with so many of them. Somewhere in there, there might be something worth reading, though the mysogyny is horrible. At one stage the cat, who tells us about the people he lives with and those who visit the house, thinks to himself "What a spiteful bore he is." How very true. I got about half way through For me, this was a rare DNF. Even for my Book Club, I can take only so much tedium. The book is actually a series of articles and I suspect that Soseki was being paid by the word, as he pads it out with so many of them. Somewhere in there, there might be something worth reading, though the mysogyny is horrible. At one stage the cat, who tells us about the people he lives with and those who visit the house, thinks to himself "What a spiteful bore he is." How very true. I got about half way through this long book before giving it up. Life is too short, and there are so many books I want to read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Moby

    Very satirical, interesting characters and witty. Love the scholar group-- their literature talk and hilarious dialogues, all those social and philosophy debates. The cat as a narrator-- unusual and amusing, you can see how weird the human nature in the eyes of a cat. There was no main plot whatsoever-- just human daily life, hanging out with their friends (quite interesting characters of Coldmoon, Waverhouse and Beauchamp) and neighbors, random talk and encounters. Too draggy at some point, Very satirical, interesting characters and witty. Love the scholar group-- their literature talk and hilarious dialogues, all those social and philosophy debates. The cat as a narrator-- unusual and amusing, you can see how weird the human nature in the eyes of a cat. There was no main plot whatsoever-- just human daily life, hanging out with their friends (quite interesting characters of Coldmoon, Waverhouse and Beauchamp) and neighbors, random talk and encounters. Too draggy at some point, whimsical at another point. A very slow-reading book. I still have no idea how I managed to read the book. Ending was somehow heart-wrenching. Old and gold, nevertheless.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joe Rogel

    I had issues rating this classic so low because it truly is a classic, but I rate purely on the amount of enjoyment I receive from a book, not on historical impact, and so the evaluation stands. A collection of anecdotes told from the perspective of an ordinary albeit extremely intelligent house cat, it has its moments but there's nothing too captivating here. For its time, having a cat as a narrator was a unique approach, but what was creative and revolutionary then has lost its novelty under I had issues rating this classic so low because it truly is a classic, but I rate purely on the amount of enjoyment I receive from a book, not on historical impact, and so the evaluation stands. A collection of anecdotes told from the perspective of an ordinary albeit extremely intelligent house cat, it has its moments but there's nothing too captivating here. For its time, having a cat as a narrator was a unique approach, but what was creative and revolutionary then has lost its novelty under the backdrop of a modern day where the concept has been perpetuated by the countless other books that followed this work. Regardless, it was an interesting novel, pointing out the follies of man, the obvious superiority of cats, and, in the case of our hero, how genius is rarely appreciated when amidst intellectual peons =) Viewed under the filter of its historical context and importance, the book is fantastic, otherwise, it's merely ok.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Miriam Cihodariu

    The idea of a cat silently observing and judging human ways can never go wrong. Especially in the hands of a talented writer like Soseki. The story of the cat is, of course, just a pretext for the author to deliver his social observations of the Meiji era society with its inevitable hypocrisies, and impostures, the ridiculousness of upstarts and so on. The author's own scholarship in Western culture is highly visible throughout the story, as he references Western writers and ideas quite often. The idea of a cat silently observing and judging human ways can never go wrong. Especially in the hands of a talented writer like Soseki. The story of the cat is, of course, just a pretext for the author to deliver his social observations of the Meiji era society with its inevitable hypocrisies, and impostures, the ridiculousness of upstarts and so on. The author's own scholarship in Western culture is highly visible throughout the story, as he references Western writers and ideas quite often. You can feel the expertise but none of his awkwardness around Western ideas. The cat theme fades away after the first few chapters (the cat itself acknowledges this in a funny self-conscious way, saying that 'as I observe humans I am becoming more and more human myself). This is because Soseki never expected to add so much to the writing (it was initially just a chapter published as a pamphlet in a newspaper, and then the editor encouraged him to write another chapter, and another, etc.). As for its tone, the book is decidedly funny at first, but in time the comic effect gets transformed into a bittersweet musing about human nature and society. I liked it more than his novels which were conceived as novels from the get-go (as those can be a bit too dedicated to a contemplative and elliptical spirit).

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dioni (Bookie Mee)

    Below is an old review of mine from 2009 (only for the first volume). Note for the first paragraph: I am now a total cat convert since the arrival of my furbaby at the beginning of 2016 :) First published at: http://www.meexia.com/bookie/2009/12/... I Am Cat is narrated by..., you guess it, a cat. I never have a cat (I'm a dog person), so I don't know the daily real behaviours of a cat. But I did find this cat interesting. I liked reading his daily life and observations of humans around him. The Below is an old review of mine from 2009 (only for the first volume). Note for the first paragraph: I am now a total cat convert since the arrival of my furbaby at the beginning of 2016 :) First published at: http://www.meexia.com/bookie/2009/12/... I Am Cat is narrated by..., you guess it, a cat. I never have a cat (I'm a dog person), so I don't know the daily real behaviours of a cat. But I did find this cat interesting. I liked reading his daily life and observations of humans around him. The cat remains nameless, since his master doesn't bother to name him. His master is a teacher, who is a self-centered lazy man. That's what the cat portrays him as anyway. He's really quite annoying to read. The book reminds me much of a Japanese movie I watched recently (An Autumn Afternoon). Both contain many idle conversations among a few Japanese men. Some of them were interesting, some were not. The last one in the first volume is a discussion of a neighbour's nose -- her gigantic nose, discussed in too many pages I thought. The human observations revolve around the teacher and his two friends (whom he has many idle conversations with), the teacher's household including his wife, children, and servant, and their neighbours. What I enjoyed most reading was the cat's opinions, not the humans. (I wonder what that says about me!) Fortunately the cat has cat neighbours too and we get to know a couple of other cats, though not long after, our cat is not so interested to mingle with the other cats anymore as he starts feeling he's more human than cat. (my gosh how many times cat appeared in my last sentence?!) "Feeling that I am now closer to humans that to cats, the idea of rallying my own race in an effort to wrest supremacy from the bipeds no longer has the least appeal. Moreover, I have developed, indeed evolved, to such an extent that there are now times when I think of myself as just another human in the human world; which I find very encouraging. It is not that I look down on my own race, but it is no more than natural to feel most at ease among those whose attitudes are similar to one's own." ~ The Cat, p70 He's just so cute. What bothered me most was the English translation of everything! The teacher's name is Sneaze. His friends Waverhouse and Coldmoon. His neighbour's name is Goldfield. What's with the English names? It's weird. There are some Japanese names in the book, so not all were translated to English. I wonder what the consideration was to change the main characters' names to English. Many, if not all, the food items were also translated to English, which confused, not to mention annoyed, me a lot. I'd prefer their original Japanese names with footnotes. That way we get to learn their original names, or if we are familiar with them, could recognize what is what straight away. As I imagine (and the book confirms), to cats everyday is like a lazy Sunday afternoon. That's what I would describe the book as. A lazy Sunday afternoon.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andrada

    I thought the concept of this book was great fun and, as a cat lover, decided to give it a try. However while Soseki’s self-important kitten has become a staple of Japanese culture for a reason and there are quite a few laughs to be had, ultimately it becomes a bit too long-winded. There were only so many of Waverhouse’s rambling nonsensical monologues I could stomach and there were definitely times when my patience was sorely tested, particularly in the second volume. I know Soseki felt I thought the concept of this book was great fun and, as a cat lover, decided to give it a try. However while Soseki’s self-important kitten has become a staple of Japanese culture for a reason and there are quite a few laughs to be had, ultimately it becomes a bit too long-winded. There were only so many of Waverhouse’s rambling nonsensical monologues I could stomach and there were definitely times when my patience was sorely tested, particularly in the second volume. I know Soseki felt pressured to write more instalments due to the popularity of the story and indeed, decided on such a definitive ending for the same reason and it shows. To think that if the Japanese public had been less enthusiastic our peerless feline narrator would have continued his fictional existence in peace. A word of caution about the particular translation I read(Tuttle Classics), I don’t know exactly what the translators were thinking, but it includes quite a few outdated words from both British and American English, the kind you have trouble finding even in dictionaries(not even general searches online yielded any results in some cases). I’m not sure whether they were trying to capture some flavour of the original by including them, but it definitely took away from the smoothness of the reading.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carola

    Meh. My edition of this book only contained the first three chapters (as opposed to all eleven), and honestly if this had gone on much longer I probably would have rated it lower. I really enjoyed the first chapter (and Sōseki had in fact originally intended to leave it at that) but it went downhill from there. I also wonder if there are editions out there that contain more footnotes? Mine happily stated in the introduction that the translators know what they are doing, and while I probably Meh. My edition of this book only contained the first three chapters (as opposed to all eleven), and honestly if this had gone on much longer I probably would have rated it lower. I really enjoyed the first chapter (and Sōseki had in fact originally intended to leave it at that) but it went downhill from there. I also wonder if there are editions out there that contain more footnotes? Mine happily stated in the introduction that the translators know what they are doing, and while I probably agree, many jokes (it is after all a satirical work) were probably lost in translation. I.e., Waverhouse's comment that cats' foreheads are proverbially diminutive, will probably seem like a very random comment but really refers to the actual proverb 猫の額 (forehead of a cat), meaning a tiny surface. And so on and so forth. At first I was unsure if it was a mistake not to try and obtain a full edition of this book (like this one) but now I'm glad I was forced to stop after chapter 3.

  20. 4 out of 5

    April

    Cleverly narrated from the point of view of a very intelligent and observant feline, but far too long. I enjoyed it for the first hundred pages or so, but afterwards it started to get awfully boring.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Yuki

    3.5 stars, rounded to 4.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Apparently this is a classic of Japanese fiction. It dates from the period following the collapse of feudalism and opening up to outside influence, with consequent social upheaval. Soseki pokes gentle fun at the culture he finds himself in and gets away with it, mainly through the twin devices of making the observations those of a nameless kitten and making himself the chief butt of the jokes - though people from many walks of life and social stations are examined in order to fully capture life Apparently this is a classic of Japanese fiction. It dates from the period following the collapse of feudalism and opening up to outside influence, with consequent social upheaval. Soseki pokes gentle fun at the culture he finds himself in and gets away with it, mainly through the twin devices of making the observations those of a nameless kitten and making himself the chief butt of the jokes - though people from many walks of life and social stations are examined in order to fully capture life in Japan at the time. Whilst there are some through-line "plot threads" e.g. the impending wedding of one character, this isn't really a novel, regardless of what the cover blurb would have you believe and I wouldn't recommend treating it as such: I found that too much at once became a bit of a grind and treating each "chapter" as a separate story, with big breaks between each, worked better. Taken that way, this was a lot of fun and an insight into a time and culture I knew little of.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Akemi G.

    I read this when I was a student (in the original Japanese version). After seeing it mentioned in How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read, I'm tempted to reread it. So I can't comment on the English translation. I just imagine it was super difficult to translate this. Jokes are hard to translate. Just the name of the cat's owner (quite obviously, the caricatured figure of the author Soseki himself)--how is it translated in English? The original is Kushami, which means "sneeze." The "I" in the I read this when I was a student (in the original Japanese version). After seeing it mentioned in How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read, I'm tempted to reread it. So I can't comment on the English translation. I just imagine it was super difficult to translate this. Jokes are hard to translate. Just the name of the cat's owner (quite obviously, the caricatured figure of the author Soseki himself)--how is it translated in English? The original is Kushami, which means "sneeze." The "I" in the title (and used throughout the story) is a challenge, too. Well, maybe not so much for translation, because there is only one first person singular pronoun in English, so it has to be "I"; however, in Japanese, there are many words that can be used to indicate the first person, each with a different feel, indicating the speaker's gender, age, social class, etc. Here, the cat uses "wagahai". Wiki implies this word is used by nobility, but not quite so. An aristocrat whose family had lived in Kyoto for generations wouldn't have used this word. It's not lowly, either. It was used by men with reasonable education--like Soseki himself. (Overall, the language and the sense of humor of this book is very Edo/Tokyo-ish of his time.) So the cat is another alter ego of the author. Therefore, when the cat makes fun (quite snobbishly) of his owner Kushami, Soseki is making fun of himself. Haha.

  24. 4 out of 5

    André

    I've bought this book when the first Brazilian translation came out some years ago, but set it aside until 2011. Unfortunately, I can't say that I was impressed by it. Written by Natsume Sōseki back in 1905, Wagahai-wa neko-de aru tells the story of a cat who views the society which surrounds his Japanese master with great sardonic eyes. He mocks all and everyone, exposing their superficiality and futility disguised as knowledge. The main problem with this book is its length. The whole thing I've bought this book when the first Brazilian translation came out some years ago, but set it aside until 2011. Unfortunately, I can't say that I was impressed by it. Written by Natsume Sōseki back in 1905, Wagahai-wa neko-de aru tells the story of a cat who views the society which surrounds his Japanese master with great sardonic eyes. He mocks all and everyone, exposing their superficiality and futility disguised as knowledge. The main problem with this book is its length. The whole thing consists of three volumes, to a total of eleven chapters and more than 600 pages. If Sōseki had written a book only one-third as long, then I would have read it with joy. As it is, it fells like Wagahai-wa neko-de aru is a one-trick pony; Sōseki pretty much tells the same story over and over again. It impresses you in the beginning, but soon boredom starts to creep in and later you just wish for the whole damn thing to be over. But no, it drags on and on. Ultimately, the book is bound to fall off from your hands and go back to the bookshelf.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tien

    I think this was meant to be a funny read but I didn’t find it that funny. .. It was interesting reading for a cat’s point of view of the human’s foibles but then I also wondered at the limited & coloured viewpoint. Everybody appears to be ridiculous even the cats. It wasn’t an auspicious beginning for the cat and its fate appears to continue to be undetermined as it remained un-named. It was useless and spent its time in spying upon people and ‘writing down’ its observations. As a cat, of I think this was meant to be a funny read but I didn’t find it that funny. .. It was interesting reading for a cat’s point of view of the human’s foibles but then I also wondered at the limited & coloured viewpoint. Everybody appears to be ridiculous even the cats. It wasn’t an auspicious beginning for the cat and its fate appears to continue to be undetermined as it remained un-named. It was useless and spent its time in spying upon people and ‘writing down’ its observations. As a cat, of course, its range of contact with people is limited to those within the household, guests of the household, and the neighbourhood. Hence, I found myself unable to believe its views. I guess there were some views which I could agree on however overall, I’m unable to grasp this satirical work very well. My ignorance of the Japanese culture of that time may also deter my understanding so unfortunately, this is not a book I enjoyed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Emilie

    Maybe I'm completely missing the plot in some way, but I'm finding it somewhat of a drag. The premise is interesting, the p.o.v. is great, but I've struggled through 250 pages so far and still I don't get that rush of longing to drop everything else I'm doing and picking up my book. I'm reading just to read as it stands and to be honest, that's not great. P.S. At time of completion I can think of one redeeming factor: it is a potent cure for insomnia if anything at all......I'm annoyed I put in Maybe I'm completely missing the plot in some way, but I'm finding it somewhat of a drag. The premise is interesting, the p.o.v. is great, but I've struggled through 250 pages so far and still I don't get that rush of longing to drop everything else I'm doing and picking up my book. I'm reading just to read as it stands and to be honest, that's not great. P.S. At time of completion I can think of one redeeming factor: it is a potent cure for insomnia if anything at all......I'm annoyed I put in those 470 pages and all that time....but those naps were lush.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Keita

    “The prime fact is that all humans are puffed up by their extreme self-satisfaction with their own brute power. Unless some creatures more powerful than humans arrive on earth to bully them, there’s just no knowing to what dire lengths their fool presumptuousness will eventually carry them.”

  28. 4 out of 5

    Clara (Clarylovesbooks)

    Couldn't manage to finish this book. It was too boring and there is no plot.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    So the first chapter was originally a story in its own right -- it reads like it, and it's a damn good short story. As for the rest, well, I'm not really up on the debates between traditionalists and modernizers in Meiji-era Japan, and so I'm left a bit cold. All I get is that it's supposed to be a satire of the time, that I can figure out just by context, but given that I wasn't there... ehhhhh. Read the first chapter -- it is excellent. The remainder need not be bothered with, unless you're So the first chapter was originally a story in its own right -- it reads like it, and it's a damn good short story. As for the rest, well, I'm not really up on the debates between traditionalists and modernizers in Meiji-era Japan, and so I'm left a bit cold. All I get is that it's supposed to be a satire of the time, that I can figure out just by context, but given that I wasn't there... ehhhhh. Read the first chapter -- it is excellent. The remainder need not be bothered with, unless you're more invested in Japanese history than I am (a subject I'm interested in, but which is pretty remote from my experience).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Smiley

    Reading this 470-page novel by Natsume Soseki was undeniably tough and its readers' concentration reasonably required. I didn't think I'd finish reading within a definite plan since I've usually regarded my reading, especially in search of enjoyment and consolation from some novels by my favorite authors, as something I can keep going whenever I want to. This idea might look boring to some readers, however, I found reading his biography and some of his shorter works like his "The Tower of Reading this 470-page novel by Natsume Soseki was undeniably tough and its readers' concentration reasonably required. I didn't think I'd finish reading within a definite plan since I've usually regarded my reading, especially in search of enjoyment and consolation from some novels by my favorite authors, as something I can keep going whenever I want to. This idea might look boring to some readers, however, I found reading his biography and some of his shorter works like his "The Tower of London", "Botchan" or "Sanshiro" stimulating, earthbound and witty. Furthermore, we may start by reading this informative website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natsume_... to have an overview background about his literary life and some realted details worth understanding and keeping in mind while reading any novel/short story of his with respect and understanding. I think this is my preamble to my brief review on "I Am a Cat" after I finally reached its final page. As always, I thought I'd like to say something (2-3 points) about it, my advice, my ideas, etc. to share with my Goodreads friends who keep reading/supporting me via the internet unimaginable for this worldwide communication some 15 years ago. First, I found reading 'one of the most original and unforgettable works in Japanese literature' (backcover) quite tedious, wordy and unnecessarily lengthy regarding innumerable narrations by the master's friends (i.e. the master of the cat); some went to more than 2 and 3 pages. I knew such length is rare and we need to respect and admire his writing fluency but it's a bid hard for me to keep reading some pages WITHOUT a paragraph, just imagine and you'd see what I mean. Second, while reading this subtly-amused novel, its readers also gain more information and knowledge on various famous English literary men. For instance, "When Carlyle was presented to the queen, he, being an eccentric and anyway a man totally unschooled in court procedures, suddenly sat down on a chair. All the chamberlains and ladies-in-waiting standing ranged behind the queen began to giggle. Well, not quite. They were about to start giggling when the quen turned around toward them and signaled them also to be seated. Carlyle was thus saved from any embarassment. ..." (p. 443) Or "Sir Francis Bacon observed in his Novum Orgnum that one can only triumph over nature by obeying the laws of nature. ..." (p. 443) And "This stage of the literary figure is already evidenced in England where two of their leading novelists, Henry James and George Meredith, have personailties so strong and so strongly reflected in their novels that very few people care to read them. ..." (p. 457) Third, I found the quotes on a variety of complaints about women interesting and humorous since I've never read them anywhere before. For example: "Next comes Diogenes who, when asked at what age it was best to take a wife, replied, 'For a young man, not yet; for the old man, never.'" (p. 459) "The Emperor Marcus Aurelius compares women to ships because 'to keep them well in order, there is always somewhat wanting.'" (p. 460) " ... Valerius Maximus who answered his own question about the nature by saying, 'She is an enemy to friendship, an inevitable pain, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desired calamity, a honey-seeming poison.'" (p. 460) Finally, I think reading this homorous novel based on the Japanese context in the Meiji era is worth reading provided that its readers should have sufficient literary background on Natsume Soseki as well as their time, sense of humour and persistence regarding reading this lengthy novel the author's hoped to be. There're still more interesting points to raise and discus in which, I think, we leave the task to those eminent Soseki scholar worldwide. As for me, I can't help admiring his genius ( as well as the two translators') in that this dialog deeply suggests a unique cultural way of respecting her (I mean Japan's) honourable practice between the teacher and his/her students. The section concerned is as follows: "Revered teacher," he muttered from his broken trance, "I'm worried sick. What, what, shall I do?" (p. 395) Compared to Thailand, we also have our ways of addressing to show respect to our teachers but I think it's a bit difficult to find a Thai equivalent with equal linguistic and aesthetic meaning when the boy said, "Revered teacher", I wonder if there're other countries having such a respectful address like this. If any, I'd appreciate your information.

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