I was perusing books in Waterstones when I picked up “If Cats Disappeared From The World” by Genki Karamura. Drawn to the cover, I found myself heading over to the counter to pay.
I don’t usually choose books based on their covers, but this one features a cat. I can think of worst reasons to select a book.
Genki Karamura is a Japanese author and although this novel was only released in the UK in September, translated by Eric Selland, it was originally published in 2012 under the title Sekai kara Neko ga Kieta nara in Japan. A film adaptation was released in 2016.
A short book at 144 pages, we learn very quickly that the narrator has a brain tumour and he is going to die. At age 30 and estranged from his father, he soon makes a deal with the devil who is dressed in an Hawaiian shirt. For each thing that he (the narrator) makes vanish from the world, the devil will grant him an extra day of life. This may sound flippant, but following an exchange about chocolate where the devil discovers that chocolate is really good, it’s clear that our narrator doesn’t realise how tough this will be. And thus starts a philosophical journey where he begins to learn what is really important in life. Ridding the world of phones, films, and clocks, he finally decides that he just can’t bring himself to sacrifice his pet cat Cabbage, in exchange for one more day.
Reflecting on his life with each sacrifice, he starts to recall events and moments in his life, and how these items may have some kind of significance. It is the story of a man who gradually comes to terms with the end of his life and making his peace with what really matters.
I sat down with this book one afternoon and despite the emotion it stirred up, it is an easy read and I finished it in one afternoon. A philosophical and humorous read, it contemplates death and what really matters in life.
A strange, but utterly compelling read. And if I learnt nothing else, I learnt that choosing a book simply because it has a cat on the cover can only be a good thing…