All My Cats

Bohumil Hrabal, trans. from the Czech by Paul Wilson. New Directions, $18.95 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2895-4
This slender volume from novelist Hrabal (1914–1997), originally published in 1983, is an affecting meditation on the joys and occasional griefs of sharing his life with a large group of cats. While working in Prague during the week, Hrabal constantly worries about the animals that inhabit—and which he’s allowed to completely overrun—his country cottage, and only upon returning there for the weekend can he feel relieved. Should anything happen to him or his wife, he frets, “Who would feed the cats?” So when a new litter brings the cottage’s feline population over capacity, and Hrabal rashly decides to kill several kittens, readers will be shocked. That he can keep them on his side afterward—by persuasively showing himself as appalled at what he’s done—is a testament to his storytelling skills. These include an ability to balance brutal moments with tender ones, as when relating how even his feline-averse wife “always looked forward to mornings, when we’d wake up and I’d open the door and five grown cats would come charging into the kitchen and lap up two full bowls of milk.” Hrabal’s involving and moving story will prod his audience to look more closely at their own relationships with other creatures. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 10/28/2019
Release date: 11/26/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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