cover image A Tale of Two Lions

A Tale of Two Lions

Roberto Ransom, , trans. from the Spanish by Jasper Reid. . Norton, $19.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-393-32936-0

In Mexican writer Ransom's first novel to be published in English, a pet cat named Cattino may actually be a lion, while a stuffed lion named Pasha may actually be alive. The novel, divided into three stories, begins with "Cattino," in which an Italian count anxiously writes to warn his sister about her impending houseguests: his wife, Sophia, and her pet, "a minor god in a cage." Sophia's devotion to the cat-cum-lion drives the count mad with jealousy. "Jeremiah and the Lion," the second story, chronicles the travails of Jeremiah Jones, a Nairobi Ministry of Tourism employee, and reads like Knut Hamsun vamping on bureaucratic absurdity. Jeremiah is paid to dress up as a big-game hunter and guard Pasha, a stuffed and mounted lion. One day, Pasha disappears, and Jeremiah is suspected of fleeing with the lion, though Jeremiah insists Pasha "left of his own accord." Pasha and Cattino meet under unusual circumstances in the novel's concluding story. Line art accompanies the simple, fable-like prose, lending an air of whimsy to the feline antics. (Jan.)