cover image The Guest Cat

The Guest Cat

Takashi Hiraide, trans. from the Japanese by Eric Selland. New Directions, $14.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2150-4

A husband and wife explore their marriage and life together through the portentous appearance of Chibi, a neighborhood cat, in Hiraide%E2%80%99s newly translated short novel that has claimed prestigious awards and bestseller status in Japan and France. The couple (who go unnamed) live in a small house together without children, both working from home as freelance copyeditors, and have forgotten how to speak to one another. As Chibi comes into the picture, the husband finally begins writing his book, and the couple bonds again in mutual appreciation of the animal, though neither of them particularly like cats. This is a short and subtle story, but remarkable in the number of layers packed into the gorgeous and textured, lolling rhythm of its prose: %E2%80%9CAfter watching her tiny figure leap past the mirror stand and slip through the gap in the hanging strips of cloth onto the pile of cushions in the upper shelf of the closet, I would leave her undisturbed for a while.%E2%80%9D The novel takes a nice metafictional turn midway through, as the reader slowly begins to understand that the book the husband is writing is the book he%E2%80%99s narrating. This is a beautiful, ornate read, brimming with philosophical observation, humor and intelligence, leaving the reader anticipating more translated works of Hiraide. (Jan.)