The Guest Cat

Author: Takashi HiraidePublisher: New Directions

Takashi Hiraide’s The Guest Cat (2014) is as playful and deadly as any Japanese fairy tale. It seduces us with charm and animal magic and then kills with subtle, silent intent.

The novel centres on a Japanese couple, apathetic and alone, who live out separate lives in a fenced up outhouse. They  spend their days writing and watching neighbours’ shadows pass through a knothole in the wall. This is Lightning Alley, a place where startling intensity and strange apparitions flash with the fatal bearings of a lightning bolt. Hiraide takes us silently into their home, behind the closed doors of the suburb and conjures up the neighbourly cat, Chibi or “the lightning catcher”, who eases her way into the heart of the desolated couple and makes dangerous connections between people’s lives.

Don’t be fooled; this is a novel written not only for cat-lovers, but for those who can handle the intrigue and mystery of the soul. Hiraide keeps his prose tautly minimal, surreal and nods to contemporary Japanese fiction. But more than this, The Guest Cat triumphantly plunges deep into the deep dark depths of its characters, touching on the displaced isolation within the self, the disillusioned collapse of an old Japan into a new one and the dark allure of a secret – buried and abandoned at the foot of a Zelkova tree…

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