Paris in July # 6, hosted by Tamara of Thyme for Tea is a tremendously enjoyable month long event devoted to all things Parisians. Enthusiastic participants from all over the book blog world have posted on museums, travel experiences, exquisite foods, literary works set in Paris among other topics.
I love cats. I delightedly received just a few days ago the gift of the forthcoming Dover Anthology of Cat Stories. I looked it over and was happy to see included were several short stories by classic status French Writers. All of the stories manifest a real understanding of cats. Today I will post briefly on short stories by Émile Zola, Théophile Gautier, and Charles Perrault.
"Puss in Boots" by Charles Perrault
Charles Perrault (1628 to 1703) is considered the creator of the genre of the literary fairy tale. All subsequent fairy tale writers are in his debt. Among the creations of Perrault that have become part of world culture are Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Puss in Boots. All of the huge number of cartoons about cats owe something to Perrault's story, "The Master Cat or Puss in Boots". The cat in this story alternates between being the pampered pet of an artisticrstic family to roaming the streets of Paris. It was fun to read and I am sure children from cat families would love this fairy tale.
"Cats' Paradise" by Émile Zola
Émile Zola is one of the finest literary chroniclers of France, especially Paris. One of my great reading experiences was the reading of the seventeen novels in The Rougon-Macquart cycle. The most famous novels in the cycle are Nana and Germinal. If you love French literature, I highly recommend reading the full cycle. "Cats' Paradise" is not terribly dissimilar to "Puss in Boots". Zola uses his story to make a political point. Another pampered Parisian cat roving the streets story, mixing with tough guy street cats, finding a bit of amore, getting his food out of the garbage (he used to eat specially prepared by the servants chicken dinners, sturgeon, and such) and sleeping in the bushes. It is ok for a while but he returns home to his pillow and the caresses of his people. Zola closes the story by telling us the price of comfort is giving up the free life.
"The Black and White Dynasties" by Théophile Gautier
"To gain the friendship of a cat is not an easy thing. It is a philosophic, well-regulated, tranquil animal, a creature of habit and a lover of order and cleanliness. It does not give its affections indiscriminately. It will consent to be your friend if you are worthy of the honour, but it will not be your slave." Théophile Gautier
Théophile Gautier was a novelist, critic, and playwright. This is my first encounter with his work.
Our last story is a great account of the life of another much loved and pampered cat. The account of how the cat would sit on the books her people were trying to read showed a real knowledge of cats.