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Posts Tagged ‘Takashi Hiraide’

Welcome to my first bookconscious on-the-fly post. I’m quite literally about to fly, and since Manchester Boston airport has free Wifi (and no hoops to jump through to connect), I decided to write about the book I finished this morning after taking Teen the Younger to school.

The Guest Cat, by poet Takashi Hiraide, is a quiet, meditative book, small and polished and lovely. It’s a novel in which the narrator is writing the novel, a literary technique that reminds me of one of those wooden box puzzles you open only to find more to unlock in the next layer.

The narrator and his wife and most of the other human characters (other than poets, interestingly enough) remain nameless, which made the story feel like a fable, with universal lessons for readers to plumb. Chibi, the guest of the title, and several other cats who make briefer but nonetheless important appearances, all have names.

The narrator and his wife have recently come to live and work (they write and edit) in a guesthouse in the garden of an old fashioned Tokyo house owned by an elderly couple. Chibi belongs to a family in the house next door on “Lightening Alley,” but begins to visit the couple every day, even sleeping there at night. They feed her, play with her, observe her, and begin to find their way in a new life.

The translators notes discuss the theme of outsiderness in The Guest Catthe couple are not part of the family or even longtime residents of their neighborhood, but Chibi gives them a sense of belonging. Through the little cat they find connection in an otherwise changing, isolating world.

It’s a deceptively simple story on the surface, but philosophical as it’s settles in your mind, which is my favorite kind of read. Like other translated work I’ve read, The Guest Cat made me aware all over again of how similar human consciousness and emotion are, even in a culture as foreign (to me) as Japan’s. And I absolutely love the cover art.

Reading Hiraide’s novel felt like meditating does when I actually manage to be still. A good way to settle my heart and mind before a trip.

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