Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Book Review: The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

I must confess that I am not a pet person and have no experience with cats of any kind; I don´t understand their behavior and also not so keen in spending the evenings with a cat on my lap. But I found the idea of cat companions or even better, The Travelling Cat Chronicles an interesting literary idea. And there is the promise of discovering another Japanese author, Hiro Arikawa.
Satoru and Nana, the stray cat he rescued five years ago, are on a journey across Japan, meeting his friends while trying to find a new place to stay for the cat. Why? We are offered some elegant hints, but we´ll know the tragic reason - ´unavoidable circumstances´ - only shortly before the book ends.
As a kid, Satoru used to have a cat, Hachi (8 in Japanese) that had to give it away after his parents were killed in a car accident and he had to move with his aunt. Nana means 7 in Japanese.
Nana is accompanying his human in a silver van, leaving behind beautiful places in Japan, like Mt. Fuji, Tokyo, Fukuoka, or Hokkaido. (For me, it brought back a lot of beautiful memories from my year spent in this country.) The friends he is seeing are important persons for his evolution as a human, and together, they are ´putting the past to rest´ bringing back dear memories. His journey is aimed at connecting and bringing meaning through the past experiences. The peaceful Satoru who ´blames no one for his troubles, didn´t see any of it as unfair´ needs the human connection, but also the feline companion.
On the other hand, the cat Nana has a different approach to connecting with humans, but also with other ferals (after all, he is a stray cat). Cats, it seems, are individualists and selfish, apparently independent from their parents six months after they´re born. (Actually, there are a lot of cat-related facts I cannot gauge for, lacking the experience and knowledge in this area, as for instance if a cat really can watched focused on TV). Nana from The Travelling Cat Chronicles was given her own voice, used sarcastically to criticize and make fun of the human world. In the end, it is humanly funny this attitude. There is a switch between the Satoru story and Nana´s and the change of voice and register doesn´t always bring echo to the story. 
The story of Satoru and Nana is such an enlightening story of mindfulness, of bringing value to every human experience and connection, including with your favorite cat. It would be so sad to consider life anything but a journey that it is up to us to make it meaningful and free of negativity, including when you are reading a story that doesn´t have a classical ´happy ending`.
The book was translated by Philip Gabril which traslated many of Murakami books into English.

Rating: 4 stars

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