In January 2023, the Japan Fans Book Club read “The Cat Who Saved Books” by Sôsuke Natsukawa. Japan Fan Elisa from Utrecht wrote a short book review.
Cats in Japanese Literature
Cats have long held a revered place in Japanese literature, and Sosuke Natsukawa’s The Cat Who Saved Books follows in this grand tradition. I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki is considered one of the earliest classics of modern Japanese literature and its 2021 English-language manga adaptation by Chiroru Kobato offers a perfect window into Meiji-era Japanese society. Junichiro Tanizaki’s highly influential novella A Cat, a Man, and Two Women, which was published three decades later, is another literary gem.
More recently, cats have featured prominently in the work of Haruki Murakami, most notably in Kafka on the Shore where one of the main characters can communicate with cats. In the past decade, English-language translations of The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, The Guest Cat by Takahashi Hiraide, and If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura have all contributed to this storied lineage.
And now, Louise Heal Kawai has translated Sosuke Natsukawa’s The Cat Who Saved Books, a sweet and whimsical story perfect for readers of all ages who love cats and books. If you’re a fan of Japanese literature or cats, this is a book you won’t want to miss.
About the Author
Sôsuke Natsukawa is a well-known Japanese author and artist whose works often explore themes of hope and redemption. His most famous novel, “The Cat Who Saved Books,” was published in 2018 and has become a beloved classic in Japan, where it has been translated into several different languages.
“The Cat Who Saved Books” tells the story of a boy named Rintaro Natsuki and his cat Tiger.
Rintaro Natsuki has always lived a life of books, growing up with his beloved grandfather in a bookstore. However, after his grandfather’s passing, the bookstore must be closed for good. It is then that a talking tabby cat named Tiger appears, and whisks Rintaro and Sayo Yuzuki, a strong-willed girl from Rintaro’s high school, away on an incredible journey.
Their mission? To “save” books from four mysterious labyrinths and to convince the men at their center why books are truly so important. Along the way, they must brave obstacles, explore their own meanings of books and the power that comes with them, and discover the impact of books on humanity. Join these three unlikely heroes as they embark on a great literary adventure and save books from the unknown!
Symbolism and Themes
“The Cat Who Saved Books” is a story filled with symbolism and themes that are deeply rooted in Japanese culture. The book also touches upon the importance of books in Japanese culture and the need to protect and preserve the written word. This story serves to highlight the issue of declining literacy, and the ways in which the publishing industry and academia have failed to keep up with the changing times. It also serves as a critique of the capitalist market of ideas, which is dominated by the wealthy and powerful, leaving little room for alternative voices and perspectives.
“The Cat Who Saved Books” is a timeless story of courage and perseverance that brings to life the beauty and power of books. With its vivid characters and powerful themes, this book is sure to captivate readers of all ages. Natsukawa’s work is a perfect example of how literature can shine a light on the complexities of Japanese culture and provide a window into a deeper understanding of its people and history.
Japanese Title: 本を守ろうとする猫の話 (Hon o mamorō to suru neko no hanashi)
Written by Elisa. Literature student by day, book blogger by night, Elisa loves Japanese arts & culture, and therefore is proud to be a member of the Japan Fans. She lives in Utrecht, together with her cat Neko. She is also a member of the Japan Fans Facebook Group.