The Travelling Cat Chronicles is Wholesome and Heartbreaking and Amazing, all in One
As a firm dog-lover and someone who’s largely indifferent to cats, I didn’t think a story about the relationship between a cat and his owner would affect me so deeply.
But here we are! I think The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a must-read for anyone who doesn’t outright hate cats. The uniqueness lies in the fact that a cat is the narrator. And based on what we observe of cats (fiercely independent, sassy, not a little arrogant), the author has done a great job conveying the wit of a cat in these few pages.
The gentle humour combined with Nana-the-cat’s witty observations of humans, and the bond he shares with his human, Satoru, makes for a wholesome, utterly heartwarming read.
But why should I review the book? Nana would do it much better than me. So here’s Nana’s review of a book that’s about…well, him.
Humans are odd creatures. They think they’re so much better than us animals, but the only difference between us is that they get bored.
They always want something to do. That is why they go to work, read, paint and all that nonsense. Us cats? We’re a more content bunch. All we want is food and a place to sleep, and we’re happy.
But humans want to read when they don’t have anything to do.
My story is fascinating, of course, but telling you all about it isn’t really my job, is it? I’m doing it, though. For Satoru. My human.
It might go against my sensibilities as a proud stray cat to admit this, but I love my human with all my heart. Not that I’d ever say that to him.
My story starts, of course, with my birth. But going that far back will probably bore you. I was, after all, a stray cat. All I’d do is eat and sleep. And boredom is why you’re reading this in the first place, aren’t you? To get rid of boredom like it’s a pesky fly?
So I’ll start with that day when I met Satoru. He named me, you know? Nana, he called me. He was smart, not like other humans. He would feed me in exchange for stroking me and our relationship continued until one day, he had to take me in. We spent several peaceful years together. I was good to him and he, to me.
Then suddenly, he asked me to get in that basket of his and took me on a journey to meet some friends.
It will be tedious to describe the whole journey here because it’s already been described. I wrote that book myself!
Yes, I know it’s hard to believe. Humans think we cats don’t understand their language. But the opposite is true. Humans only speak human, but we animals are much more multilingual! But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
I’m a cat and I’m telling you a story myself.
If that’s not tempting enough for you, then I don’t know what is.
Join me on this journey with my Satoru. If you don’t, human, it’s your loss. Because I’m delightful, and the journey was wondrous!
And remember, I’m doing this for Satoru.
About the Author
Hiro Arikawa is a Japanese light novelist from Kochi, Japan.
Unfortunately, there is not much about her available on the internet. Most info about this extraordinary writer is about her writings and not about her as a person. I don’t know if this is deliberate, a way to maintain privacy, or if people didn’t really bother to find out much about here.
But here’s a little bit about Hiro Arikawa’s work: She won the tenth annual Dengeki Novel Prize for new writers for her debut work, Shio no Machi: Wish on My Precious in 2003, and the book was published in 2004. Although she’s a light novelist, her books have the unusual honour of being published as hardbacks alongside more literary works. The Travelling Cat Chronicles is the only one of her books to have been translated into English.
About the Translator
James Philip Gabriel is an American translator and Japanologist. He’s also a professor and former department chair of the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Arizona. More important in this context, perhaps, is that he is one of the major people involved in translating the works of the much-renowned Murakami, into English.
He has also translated works by Nobel Prize-winner Kenzaburō Ōe, and Senji Kuroi. Moreover, he has also written a book of his own – Mad Wives and Island Dreams: Shimao Toshio and the Margins of Japanese Literature. As for awards, Dr Gabriel has reveived the 2001 Sasakawa Prize for Japanese literature, the 2001 Japan-US Friendship Commission Prize for Translation of Japanese Literature, and the 2006 PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize for Kafka on the Shore.
(Oh well. Murakami translator aside, there doesn’t seem to be much info available about this eminent personality either)