If Cats Disappeared From The World

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Oct 2018

Member Reviews

This short book caught me by surprise. At first, I thought it was a fairly shallow thought experiment about making things like phones disappear from the world.  And its easy conversational writing style confirms this.   Then it evolves into a book about grief and a young man facing his own mortality and ultimately the things that are important to him.

I do love first-person narrations.  The protagonist feels very three dimensional and well rounded, so much so, that the book feels autobiographical which it might be, up to a point.   There are only a handful of other characters.    His ex-girlfriend who he calls with his last phone call; Aloha, the devil who looks like the protagonist but with vastly different dress sense and a cat called Cabbage.  Not surprisingly they are not as concrete as the protagonist.   My favourite has to be the cat, who from partway through the tale starts talking, and with a posh (Japanese) accent (it's magic).

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If Cats Disappeared from the World is a short charming book, devourable in an afternoon, and while this does stifle it, giving it little room to slow down and breathe and contemplate the weight of it all, it does add to the stress and anxiety that the protagonist feels.

The book’s greatest strength comes in the form of the few pockets of breathing room we are afforded. Each new day is a new choice for our protagonist, and here another connection to his past is unveiled.

I would highly recommend reading this book.
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I thought that this book was an interesting premise with a lovely ending, but the formulaic chapter setting and the slightly stilted conversation didn’t do it for me.  I completely understand that as a translation from the original Japanese, there may well be nuances that are lost in that process. 
I did think that the story thinks it’s cleverer than it is – of course there are things more important than your phone, clocks and film. The narrator’s relationship with his cat is well described, as is the one with his father. It is a complicated and delicate set of conversations which was interesting, but ultimately it could have been an essay and not a novella.
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If Cats Disappeared from The World was a beautiful little book. Some books translated from another language lose something in translation, but Eric Selland did a wonderful job of making sure this one didn’t.

If Cats Disappeared from The World deals with love, life and loss in a wonderfully unique way.

The book begins with the narrator writing a letter to someone, a letter which opens with an unusual question:

“If cats disappeared from the world, how would the world change? And how would my life change?

And if I disappeared from the world? Well, I suppose nothing would change at all. Things would probably just go on, day after day…same as usual.”

He tells the unknown recipient that the letter will explain everything in the end and that is also his will and testament.

The narrator is 30 years old and was told by the doctor that he has a brain tumour and has only six months left to live.

When he found out he felt like he had so much left unaccomplished things that only he could do some when The Devil appeared to him out of the blue with a deal he couldn’t help but consider. For every thing he got rid of from the world he would get another day at life.

I have seen some people complain in reviews about the things that were chosen to disappear from the world, but those people are missing the point because it was never the narrator’s choice it was the devil who chose.

One thing that amused me was that the devil was contemplating getting rid of chocolate but after trying it for himself he decided to keep it.

On diagnoses the narrator contemplates his friendships and mostly finds them lacking, he is single so has no significant other to tell. His mother is dead and he is estranged from his father, in fact he feels like the only one who might miss him is his cat Cabbage.

As the book progresses the narrator examines his relationships with those who have been important in his life and the results are interesting. His mother, his father, an ex-girlfriend and a friend are all put under the spotlight.

As things disappear from the world the narrator examines what is important in life and what we and he can do without. This had the result of making me question what I would be happy to do without. For example, I don’t think I would be overly bothered if phones were no longer in the world or movies but if books disappeared I think that would be a the thing that made me decide it probably wasn’t worth it.

If Cats Disappeared from The World is one of my top books of the year.
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A touching and beautifully written book about life, death and what matters most to us. The narrators journey in the span of seven days is an emotional roller coaster as he ways up what things he could and couldn't live without. He meditates on his past relationships; his ex-girlfriend, old friends, his dead mother and estranged father and the two little cats who changed his life, Lettuce and Cabbage.
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One narrator and a cat called Cabbage. And the Devil... When the narrator is diagnosed with terminal cancer and limited time to live, the Devil (in the Narrator's guise but with some questionable fashion choices) appears with a seductive offer - I'll pick something to remove from the world, and in return you get an extra day of life.
The book, masterfully translated from Japanese,  shows the little things we take for granted everyday and how they can seem so much bigger to others. To the person who is waiting on a friend, having a clock to hand is vital. For the person for whom the world is complicated and even frightening, a movie can be a safe way to learn.
The author explores the themes of love, loss, the things we give up and the things we purposefully cast aside. A fascinating book with the most splendid feline I've had the joy of reading.
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A well written book that has clearly been given a lot of thought. A good read, if you’re looking for something a little different to the norm. A thoroughly enjoyable break from the usual books lining the shelves.
Thank you to Netgalley the author and the publisher for my arc.
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The quirky nature of the story (a man with only a short-time to live makes a deal with the devil to get an extra day of life at the cost of removing a chosen thing from the world) led me to hope that it would be similar to the beautiful Cake Tree in the Ruins. Sadly Cats fell into all of the pitfalls that Nosaka so masterfully avoided. 

It is overly sentimental and leaves little or nothing for the reader to contemplate. Rather than plumbing any significant depths it provides ill-advised lamentations against things such as telephones and watches that are better suited to social media. There’s a lack of complexity that prevented it from touching me at all, leaving me to focus on the weaknesses of the execution. In particular it was let down by the writing style and/or translation. The writing was simplistic, saccharine and read like it had been written by a very young person or a very unsophisticated author and the repetitive, clichéd speech patterns just set my teeth on edge. A cat on the cover does not a worthwhile story make.
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A shame there is not much of a plot or story here. The original premise sounded interesting, but all the author has done is give their thoughts on what he thinks about how important things like watches, phones and cats are in the world. Very self indulgent, doesn't go anywhere.
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I found this book to be a strange tale, unbelievable and slightly wonderful all at the same time. Would recommend to family and friends.
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A quirky funny heartbreaking read that will make you want to grab life with all hands/paws! Not just for those who love our feline friends, this is simply a beautiful story about appreciating life.
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There’s a sparse and young, almost delicate sense to Genki Kawamura’s writing that cheered me up no end even though this was a book about death. The lightness to life and what we hold too close is really what this book is about. Kawamura is 39 and is now the author of three books; If Cats Disappeared from the World is his first one and has sold over a million copies.

This is the second Japanese book I’ve read this year about cats, both translated from Japanese by Eric Selland, and they both touch on social isolation and the love we give.

Our narrator has only days to live and is tempted by the devil in giving up more and more, not only from his life but from everyone’s, for one more day each time. Through his daily sacrifices and before we get to his cat Cabbage, we find out about his relationship with his family and what has led to him being alone.

It’s a special and simple tale, which opens up a path to joy more than anything. Even when the descriptions felt rather young I couldn’t help but read on. The facts seem simple:

by making something disappear from the world, I could live for one more day. Let’s see now, that would be thirty items a month, 365 per year.

But in reality, the things we choose sometimes mean more than we think and the consequences of losing even our most seemingly trivial items (although the devil is specific in what he wants, he doesn’t ask for trinkets) are far-reaching.

This is worth a read.

If Cats Disappeared from the World is available now.
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Delightfully amusing and poignant in the same vein. A dying man makes deals with the Devil  - who appears to him in constantly changing Hawaiian T-shirts -for extra days of life
The deal is, that for an extra day of life something has to disappear from the world. Clocks, ‘phones. Could this be the fate of cats!!!?
I loved the humour that ran through the story and felt the sadness of the character’s estrangement from his father. Could the Devil’s deals, in some way, help to heal this rift?  
A most unusual book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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A young man is visited by the Devil after finding out he only has a few days to live. The Devil bargains with him that he can give up one thing a day in extra for an extra day of life. Plenty of dark humour to be found here along with many life affirming questions.
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Thank you to Netgalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

The narrator finds he is dying and the devil offers a deal to get rid of one thing from the world entirely for each extra day of life. Would you get rid of the things that the devil proposes? 
I loved this book, it's so beautiful and thought provoking. I'm a big fan of Japanese literature and this had all my favourite elements: a cat with a starring role, little details that make you think and a connection to wider society and the world.
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An original title that promises much…

The story of this short novel is a very simple one.  On the very first page, a young man of thirty receives the awful news from his doctor that he has cancer and now has only a week left to live.  In shock he returns home and finds himself making a pact with the devil, who appears to him in human form, a pact which tells him if he removes one thing from his life, he will be given an extra day to live. 

So, one by one he gives up the objects demanded of him - mobile phones, films, clocks - until he is finally asked to give up cats and this is one bargain too far.

The narrative reveals a lonely man at odds with the world.  He works as a postman because of his fondness of stamps, but outside work his life has been something of a failure.  After his mother dies and he becomes estranged from his father, he is left with one love in his life, his cat Cabbage.  

He seems unable to sustain relationships with people.  His girlfriend and he conducted their love affair over a telephone, but it is doomed to failure when they actually go away together.  

Each object he now gives up has him dealing with different aspects of his past and searching for closure.  It also raises a more general question of what we really need in modern life.  Are we humans surrounded with too much clutter and unnecessary objects?

This very unusual book is part journal, part memoir and part a conversation with himself, as narrator. At times it is funny, at other times sad.  Occasionally it becomes almost irritating, given the sheer hopelessness of his situation. 

I get the feeling that the Japanese sense of humour may have lost something in translation, but for all that, this rather strange little book is well worth reading right through to the moving end.  


Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review.
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I was attracted to If Cats Disappeared From The World by its philosophical premise, its cats and death themes (perfect October reading subjects), and the adorable kitten on the cover. I also liked that this book is translated by Eric Selland whose work I previously read in The Guest Cat - a wonderful Japanese novel. I hoped that If Cats Disappeared From The World would have the emotional heft of The Guest Cat or even A World Without Color. Unfortunately I felt it was too light and didn't explore its themes as deeply as I would have liked.

Kawamura poses ideas and situations such as the appearance of the Devil or the vanishing of various aspects of modern life, but doesn't follow though into their hows or whys or really explore the implications. Plus our narrator doesn't actually seem that distressed by his imminent demise if the story is to be taken at face value as written.  I could empathise with our narrator's predicament at times, but often felt quite distanced from him too. Perhaps this story is all a surreal hallucination caused by the stress of his diagnosis? I could connect more strongly when the story focused on the narrator's mother and her first cat Lettuce. These sections felt much more emotional and I could envisage the characters in these scenes. The fantastical elements of If Cats Disappeared From The World however left me unsatisfied.
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It seems that cats, like Alphaville, are big in Japan - and I really enjoy the way that Japanese writers use these animals to explore some big issues. In this book we have a narrator whose life is turned upside-down when he is given the news that he has, at most, months to live. He returns home to try to make sense of these news in the company of his beloved pet, a cat named Cabbage, but is startled to find himself face to face with the devil. The devil, a wise cracking, Hawaiian shirt-wearing character makes him an offer - he can have one more day of life in exchange for making an item disappear from the world.  Aloha won't allow him to choose anything too petty so we end up seeing the end of phones, clocks and films: each time our narrator is allowed to decide between these objects and a day of life. These decisions aren't necessarily easy - like most people these days he relies heavily on his mobile and has a busy life governed by timetables - but the loss of cinema hits him very hard as he and his closest friends are real film buffs. The fourth day is offered to him in exchange for the existence of cats and this becomes the hardest decision of all to make.

This book is, in turn, amusing and thought-provoking. It leads you to consider, as the narrator does, the role your mobile phone plays in your life - both a way of communicating with the world and of separating yourself from it - and your attitude to time.  More importantly than any of this, however, is the way the narrator re-examines his relationships with people in his life: his ex-lover, his mother, who died a few years previously, and his father who he hasn't seen since her death. The only slight oddness for me was hearing him reflect on his life - he is just 30 and keeps referring to this. Of course, he knows he is about to die so to his mind he may as well be 80 but it did jar slightly. My fault, I'm sure. All in all, an interesting addition to the list of books I have read about cats, death and Japan.
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This is the tale of what happens when our protagonist is told he is about to die. It’s an engaging read but didn’t set my world on fire.
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This book was very weird, but not in a bad way. The concept alone is very quirky and the way that Kawamura describe death was also strange, but very interesting. There was definitely a lot of symbolism to find there. In general, the book is extremely philosophical, looking at various things that seem like they don't matter that much but make the world very different when they are missing from it. 

The cat, Cabbage. Was definitely the best part. I don't want to give anything away, but we had a real glimpse at his personality and the way he saw the world. And having a cat called Cabbage was always going to be a way into my heart. Cabbage and Lettuce are beautiful creatures and the world would definitely not be as good without them! 

As someone who reads a fair amount of Japanese literature, I was able to put up with some of the style differences, but if this is the first book that you're reading that was originally written in Japanese, you may find it off-putting. The flashbacks flow on from the text, instead of being separated into a separate scene and the narrator tends to go off on tangents a lot before casually rejoining the scene. Also, some of the translators choices felt a bit off to me, especially in case of thinking something rather than speaking it. In Japanese thoughts are written very much like speech, with "I thought" coming after the thing that is being thought. If felt to me like much of these sentences were fairly directly translated, meaning that you think that the character is saying something aloud when it's actually only thought. This was very off-putting when it happened. 

Overall though, it was an interesting concept and a fun story.
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