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Excerpt Taken From Natsume’s I Am a Cat


For practice, I write long passages out longhand.  I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember.  Tonight I figured, hey, why not, and I changed things up a bit and pounded out a passage on the keyboard.  It’s taken from Soseki Natsume’s I am a Cat, which was published in three volumes, 1905, 1906, 1907.

To fill you in on the scene:  Suzuki, yet to take his seat, is a surprise guest in the cat’s house.  The cat’s master has yet to emerge from the toilet.  Enjoy:

Then, when [Suzuki’s] roving glance chances to fall upon the cushion provided for his particular convenience, what should he find but, planted serenely smack in its center, a squatting cat.  I need hardly add that the cat in question is my lordly self.

It was at this point that the first quick tremor of tension, a ripple so small it did not show on his face, quaked in Suzuki’s mind.  That cushion had undoubtedly been provided for himself but before he could sit down on it, some strange animal, without so much as a by-your leave, had dispossessed him of the seat of honor and now lay crouched upon it with an air of firm self-confidence.

This was the first consideration to disturb the composure of his mind.  In point of fact, had the cushion remained unoccupied, Suzuki would probably have sought to demonstrate his modesty by resting his rump on the hard matfloor until such time as my master himself invited its transfer to the comfort of the cushion.  So who the hell is this that has so blithely appropriated the cushion which was destined, sooner or later, to have eased Suzuki buttocks?  Had the interloper been a human being, he might well have given way.  But to be preempted by a mere cat, that is intolerable.  It is also a little unpleasant.  This minor animality of his dis-sedation was the second consideration to disturb the composure of Suzuki’s mind.  There was, moreover, something singularly irritating about the very attitude of the cat.  Without the least small twitch-sign of apology, the cat sits arrogantly on the cushion it has filched and, with a cold glitter in its unamiable eyes, stares up into Suzuki’s face as if to say, “And who the hell are you?”  This is the third consideration to ruffle Suzuki’s composure.  Of course if he’s really irked, he ought to jerk me off the cushion by the scruff of my neck.  But he doesn’t.  He just watches me in silence.  It is inconceivable that any creature as massive and muscular as man could be so afraid of a cat as not to dare to bring crude force to bear in any clash of will.  So why doesn’t Suzuki express his dislike by turfing me off the cushion with summary dispatch?  The reason is, I think, that Suzuki is inhibited by his own conception of the conduct proper to a man.  When it comes to the use of force any child three feet tall can, and will, fling me about quite easily.  But a full-grown man, even Suzuki Tojuro, Goldfield’s right-hand man, cannot bring himself to raise a finger against this Supreme Cat Deity ensconced upon the holy ground of a cotton cushion two feet square.  Even though there were no witness, a man would regard it as beneath his dignity to scuffle with a cat for possession of a cushion.  One would make oneself ridiculous, even a figure of farce, if one degraded oneself to the level of arguing with a cat.  For Suzuki, the price of this human estimate of human dignity is to endure a certain amount of discomfort in the nates, but precisely because he feels he must endure it, his hatred of the cat is proportionately increased.  When, every now and again he looks at me, his face exudes distaste.  Since I find it amusing to see such wry distortion of his features, I do my best myself to maintain an air of innocence and resist the temptation to laugh.

February 16, 2009 8:25 pm

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