Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Cat, a Man, and Two Women by Junichiro Tanizaki -谷崎 潤一郎

A Cat, a Man, and Two Women by Junichiro Tanizaki (1935, 99 pages)

A Great Cat Story by a Great Writer
"Your cat means more to you than I do"

A Link to my posts on Junichiro Tanizaki

A Link to my posts on Japanese Literature

Yesterday I was lying in bed reading A Cat, a Man, and Two Women by Junichiro Tanizaki (1886 to 1965-Tokyo Japan) laughing so loud at what I was reading that my wife came in to see what could be the source of such great hilarity.   I told her I thought somehow back in 1935  a great novelist must have been listening into one of our conversations.   Eighteen years ago Charles (my blog co-editor) joined my life along with his brother Yoda (who passed away at 16 and will always be greatly missed ) became part of my life.   Seven years ago my wife became part of my life.   She totally loves Charles and is more attuned to his emotions and feelings than I am at times and takes great care of him but, like many a cat or dog lover in similar circumstances we have had conversations exactly like this one from A Cat, a Man, and Two Women.

(To set the stage for the quote, the wife had just spent a lot of time fixing a special mackeral dish that her husband claims is one of his favorite.)

"That is just not true.   I always plan to eat them myself but Lilly (the cat) keeps after me, and I end up tossing them to her one at a time"  (the husband)

"What a liar!   You pretend to like them so you can give them all to Lilly.   Your cat  means more to you than I do!"  (the wife)

"How can you say that" (said with as much indignation as he could muster by the husband )

"Am I more important than your cat?" (the wife)

"Of course you are"  (said by the husband).

Junichiro Tanizaki is one of my favorite writers.   I have previously posted on eleven of his works and loved them all.   (There is background data on him in my prior posts for those interested.)   His best known work is The Makioka Sisters.  

I came to like him even more after reading the excellent short introduction to the book (it comes with two short stories) by the translator Paul McCarthy in which he reveals that Tanizaki was a total cat lover and lived with cats his whole life.   This really shows in A Cat, a Man, and Two Women.   It has the best descriptions of the emotional bond between cats and their people I have ever read.   Tanizaki does a truly wonderful job describing the movements, emotions, and attitudes of Lilly, the cat.   It really is a great cat book.   Tanizaki is famous for his brilliant treatment of women and this work is no exception.   The book is also a story of the man's relationship with the two women in the title and with his mother.   It also details the important part the cat plays in both relationships.   This is not just a cute lets gush about cats book, it is a wonderful book you make come to treasure as one of your all time favorite reads.

Of the characters in the book, Lilly is the only one that can be admired.   Her love is worth winning and taking pride in.    I think most readers will be disgusted with the man and the two women.    Lilly is by far the individual of best character in this story.   The book is also a good study of marriages and gives us a look at life in pre-WWII Japan.    Faced with the choice of either of the two women in this story or Lilly I would keep Lilly and you would also.

I really do not see anyone who likes a perfectly written story and is a cat lover not being crazy for A Cat, a Man, and Two Women.   It is out of print I think but you can buy it on for just a few dollars.

Mel u


Suko said...

As a cat owner (actually, she owns me) the story of Lilly sounds wonderful. I hope you and Bellezza work figure out a joint event for the JLC-5.

@parridhlantern said...

Already have a place marked out & a list of books to start JLC5 on my challenges page & this could be another Tanizaki for it. My wife has a cat that tolerates my existence, fully aware that,my role is merely as a provider.

Unknown said...

this sounds pretty amazing and own three cats! :D