I have decided to post a book recommendation at the end of every month for something I have read and really enjoyed. After all, I live in the same house with a writer, so reading a lot is a requirement. I’ll start this literary adventure with the most recent book I finished. This is “If Cats Disappeared from the World” by Genki Kawamura.
Why I chose this book?
Firstly, I didn’t buy this book myself; it was a gift for my birthday. However, I had suggested to people around me that I had found an intriguing book that I would love to read. And other people around me suggested it would be a good book recommendation.
I saw the book in the library, and the first thing that attracted me was the title. As a cat person, if I had to choose just one thing in my life that I would not part with, it would be my orange fluffy cat. I cannot imagine a world in which I would not wake up every morning with a furry ball on my legs. Or go to sleep before laughing out loud while playing with my cat.
When the Devil and a cat meet in literature, almost always a bargain and a life lesson follow.
Then, when a book manages to get my attention, I always read the back cover. There were a few sentences that convinced me even more that this book is worth reading:
- “When the Devil and a cat meet in literature, almost always a bargain and a life lesson follow.” This is definitely true. And probably the first example of this situation that comes to any reader’s mind is “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov. I love that book, and I love this one too.
- The cat’s name is Cabbage, which I think is so funny and smart at the same time.
- The book is supposed to be a meditation on some very important life aspects: life and death, broken families, estrangement, love, happiness, the value of things around us, responsibility, and life purpose. All those themes are so general and so well-known by everybody around the world that it is impossible not to relate to the story and the main character in at least in one aspect.
Why this book is a good recommendation?
The book promotes minimalism, a current global trend that many philosophers predicted would appear in the late stage of capitalism.
1. The philosophy
The book explores the answer to the question, “What is important in life?”. It comes at the perfect time considering our return after the pandemic to an extravagant possession of as many things as possible. The book promotes minimalism, a current global trend that many philosophers predicted would appear in the late stage of capitalism. The young generation of today prefers gathering experiences over physical things and to enjoy most of life’s pleasures. The benefits of this style of living are highlighted throughout the book. If you need motivation to declutter your life and your home, this is a very good starting point.
2. Fast read
“If Cats Disappeared from the World” is a short book that you can read in one breath on a weekend afternoon. However, the shortness of the book together with all the motivational and inspirational passages allow you to slow down, breathe, contemplate, and meditate on the main ideas and relate to the protagonist’s internal conflicts.
3. Cultural aspect
Coming from a Latin culture, my life is always in a hurry. People around me are almost never on time. Human relationships are always close, and people are very eccentric and extroverted. Feelings are always expressed. Japanese culture, however, is quite the opposite. They take their time, but still, punctuality is permanently present. Politeness and distance are maintained even in the most intimate family relationships, such as those between lovers or between parents and children. People keep their feelings to themselves or express them only in small doses at a time. Dialogues sometimes seem forced and unnatural to me. I enjoyed reading this book because I got the opportunity to experience this culture more. It is also a reminder on how different life can be based on where you are born.
I am also a fan of Japanese books because I can recognize some cultural aspects from my first visit there. Japan was the first country I ever visited outside of my own when I was 17. I was the first in my family to ever go outside the border of my country, and I will always enjoy reliving even small pieces of my amazing experience back then through any means I have at my disposal (for instance, last month I purchased a box of skincare products from Japan).
Where this book recommendation fails?
There are a few aspects of the book where it fails to meet expectations. Firstly, it is quite predictable from the start. I will not go into details about the story, as I do not want to give you any spoilers. You should know, however, that the philosophical meditations keep the book alive, not the story which you can predict after the first few pages with accuracy. Secondly, some dialogues are forced and awkward when the story brings up the girlfriend. She seems to have no emotion at all. And the devil is downgraded from its statute through the way he talks and looks. (Even though there is a very good explanation at the end for the funny look it has).
Favorite quotes from the book
I always read books with a pencil in my hand to highlight quotes and place bookmarks to remember where my favorite passages are and revisit them after I finish the book. In Genki Kawamura, ten of my favorite inspirational quotes (in no particular order) are:
„Cats and humans have been partners for over ten thousand years. And what you realize when you’ve lived with a cat for a long time is that we may think we own them, but that’s not the way it is. They simply allow us the pleasure of their company.”Genki Kawamura, “If Cats Disappeared from this World“
- “Like love, life is beautiful because it has to end.”
- “I wonder why people always expect things from others that they themselves can’t or won’t do.”
- “With freedom comes uncertainty, insecurity, and anxiety. Human beings exchanged their freedom for the sense of security that comes from living by set rules and routines—despite knowing that they pay the cost of these rules and regulations with their freedom.”
- “When you think about it, it’s the future you’ll never get to see that you regret missing the most when you die.”
- “To live means: to cry and shout, to love, to do silly things, to feel sadness and joy, to even experience horrible, frightening things… and to laugh.”
- “That’s what the devil is about. I’m what you wanted to become but couldn’t. I’m both the closest and the farthest things from who you are.”
- “No one knows exactly how long they’re going to live. So there’s really no such thing as too late or too soon.”
- “I got so caught up with all the little everyday things that I ended up wasting the time I could have spent on more important things. But the scariest thing is that I never even noticed that I was wasting my precious time.”
- “I don’t know if I’m happy or unhappy. But there’s one thing I do know. You can convince yourself to be happy or unhappy. It just depends on how you choose to see things.”
What is the book about?
The book is about a postman, whose name is not revealed, who finds out he is going to die soon. When he gets home, he is visited by the devil who offers him a deal. He can extend his life by 24 hours if he makes something disappear from the world. The devil returns each day to suggest something new to disappear until the narrator decides he wants to keep that one thing.
If you don’t want spoilers and only want to read the book recommendation without knowing the full story, you should stop reading now and skip straight to the conclusion.
“Kawamura’s message is clear without being didactic: look around you, embrace those you love, and enjoy life as you can.”The Guardian
Among the things the devil takes from the world are phones, movies, and clocks. At one point, chocolate was also a possibility, but the postman is not a chocolate lover, so the sweets are spared. (I do not know of anyone else who does not love chocolate.) The last thing the devil wants to take away is cats, and this is where the narrator puts a stop to the deal.
With each thing that the devil takes away from the world, the narrator gets one last chance to enjoy it. One last phone call, one last movie to see, one last day in which his cat, Cabbage, receives the supernatural power of communicating in human language. These experiences allow him to remember the past and realize that the important things in life are people, happy memories, and love. He relives moments spent with his mother during her last days, his relationship with his estranged father, the way his first cat, Salad, appeared in his life, and the way clocks played a significant role in choosing his profession. All of these flashbacks are well-written and provide the answer to the question that guides the whole story: what is important in life?
The ending becomes obvious the more you read: cats do not disappear from the world. The narrator understands the importance of love and family in his life. So he rushes to see his estranged father one last time before he dies.
Conclusion – Yes, this is a good book recommendation for anyone
“Cats just disappear sometimes. You have to love and appreciate them while they’re near you.”Haruki Murakami (quote extracted from Sam Kalda’s book “Of Cats and Men“)
“If Cats Disappeared from the World” by Genki Kawamura is a book recommendation I wholeheartedly support. It is a beautiful, comforting, fun, and easy read that explores the journey towards understanding the purpose of life and making peace with its end. The book centers around cats and how they enrich our lives, as well as the valuable lessons we can learn from them.
While the answers to the existential questions raised in the book may not be new to anyone, they are presented in an innovative and inspiring way, which makes it a good weekend read recommendation. As The Guardian has noted, “Kawamura’s message is clear without being didactic: look around you, embrace those you love, and enjoy life as you can.”
If you do decide to read this book, I encourage you to snuggle your cat a little closer, and to remember Haruki Murakami’s advice to a reader who lost his cat. “Cats just disappear sometimes. You have to love and appreciate them while they’re near you.”
What do you think of this book? Have you read it, or are you interested in doing so? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. And if you want to purchase it, you can do this from Amazon using the link below (the price is the same but you will also be supporting my blog by purchasing using it).