I have been studying and visiting Japan for over 30 years and been lecturing for over 20 years. Because of this, I have read a lot of books about Japan and set in Japan. ‘Cat in the City’ is definitely one of my favourites.
If we don’t think of ‘Japanese’ as a nationality or ethnicity, but rather as a state of mind or a style (so ignore the name the author on the cover of the book), I would say that this is one of the best works of Japanese literature that I have read.
It’s also given me further food for thought as I continue to write my own novels set in Japan.
‘The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon’ was always one of my favourite Japanese books and in recent years I have enjoyed novels by Hideo Yokoyama and increasingly even Haruki Murakami. When I was an undergraduate student I also bought all three volumes of ‘I am a Cat’ – enjoying the first, but, as far as I remember, giving up part way through the second and never touching the third. ‘Cat in the City’ is original, but fits so neatly in a list and discussion with many of these books and authors.
I suspect that those unfamiliar with Japanese literature may struggle with elements – but there are a few well known phrases and things about Japan here and there to help provide hooks – but as more and more Japanese literature is translated into English, I hope that many readers will feel very comfortable with the style. I’m sure that a Japanese translation would do very well in Japan. The book has elements which are amusing, parts which make you pause for thought, a variety of different tales, and it brings them together in a perfect combination linked by a calico cat (I hope “Bob” would appreciate this sentence).
Returning to what I wrote earlier, do not ignore the name of the author as I have no doubt that he will have many more great books in the future.