From Balzac to Cortázar: writers seduced by cats | Babelia


Cats are a very interesting literary material. Few animals give so much play to write about them. They are elegant, mysterious, independent, interested, arcane and adorable at the same time, friendly, agile, stubborn, happening and, above all, they like to be the protagonists.

Their relationship with books has also been marked by writers who have shared their lives with them: among them there are quite a few of those considered “cursed” or of complex reading. Bukowski? Cat. Burroughs? Cat. Cloak? Cat. ¿Cortázar? Cat. Hemingway? Cat. Chance?

Literature has approached felines from many perspectives. The most complicated and bold formula, without a doubt, is to put the cat as a narrator. Maybe the top of this stream is I am a cat (Impedimenta), from Japanese Natsume Soseki. An example of Japanese narrative, tempo and humor. With everything it implies. The recipe for commenting on the world from the feline perspective was also used by E.T.A. Hoffman in Opinions on the Murr cat (Chair) and Gérard Vincent in Akhenaten, the story of Humanity told by a cat (Alfaguara). Everyone agrees to put the human being back and a half. And all cat owners can imagine theirs perfectly with their feet resting in front of their heads and criticizing with disgust what they do. Absolutely everything, of course.

From Balzac to Cortázar: writers seduced by cats



There are also those who have focused on the feelings of the cat, without going to value (at least not directly) human stupidity. It’s what Balzac did in his Love sentences of an English cat (Resistance Books) and P.-J. Sthal in Love sentences of a French cat (Books of resistance).

“The main thing is not to fall into the big mistake / and remember that a cat is not a dog,” wrote T. S. Eliot. They have also had poets who loen them, such as Pablo Neruda or Baudelaire. Borges dedicated verses to his and Eliot an entire poems The book of the sensible cats of the Old Opossum (Nordic) that later would serve as inspiration for the musical Cats

There are writers who have told the good side of cats (which there is also). Antonio Burgos, for example, narrates in Cats without borders (The Sphere of Books) the arrival at his house of Rowing and Romulus. The book was so successful that it had a second installment, Allegations of cats, in which readers participated with their stories.

Perhaps the most mediatic story (he gave even for a movie) is that of James Bowen and his book A stray cat named Bob (The Book Sphere). Bob decided one day that Bowen, a street musician with a complicated life, would be his owner. And that would save him and make him a millionaire. In this book there is a scene with which every person who lives with a cat will feel identified.

From Balzac to Cortázar: writers seduced by cats



Doris Lessing picked up on Illustrious cats (Lumen) the life of the many cats he knew – and had – during his life. Even the magazine New yorker He has published several compilation copies with the best articles and the best cartoons featuring cats. Of course, they are in English.

And books about domestic cats never stop appearing. The last, newcomer from Japan, is Momoko and the cat (Lumen), by Mariko Koike. A peculiar mixture of love and suspense in which the cat Lala plays a leading role. Psychological terror that has nothing to do with the one that the owners of cats feel when they see them to remain with the lost glance in some indeterminate point of the beyond.

The French essay school has also entered into cat matter. One of the best books on the subject is Praise the cat (Peripheral), by Stéphanie Hochet. A highly recommended wonder that explains why cats always want open doors. “I have studied philosophers and cats a lot. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior,” says Hippolyte Taine in Life and philosophical opinions of a cat (Resistance Books).

Several books have also been written about the history of the cat and its relationship with the human being and his place in the world. Abigail Tucker made in A lion on the couch (The Sphere of the Books) a journey through the biography of the mininos as a species and their ability to dominate the world. The tiger in the house (Stealth), by Carl Van Vechten, is another interesting retrospective of the cat’s interaction with its surroundings (understand man as such). It has the peculiarity that it was written in 1920, before the times of Instagram.

From Balzac to Cortázar: writers seduced by cats



The curious way of being of cats has also led to its presence in the world of comics. Easily caricatured and friendly by nature, they have left for history characters like Garfield (Planet) or Simon’s cat (Duomo), whose comic strips collect very well the soul of the felinity. In this section, a slightly heterogeneous small recommendation: the book Cats are paradoxes (JDB), by Pablo Amargo. 80 illustrations. 80 riddles.

If the suggested titles are too many or a more general approach to the relationship of cats and literature (or vice versa) is intended, it has recently seen the light The big book of cats (Blackie Books), a very complete and interesting review of the feline presence in the world of letters.

The explanation of why they have managed to conquer the Internet without knowing how to use a computer or a mobile phone is hidden between so much page and so much ink dedicated to cats. Also its spectacular evolution, which has led them from being considered magical beings to something much more useful and special: that humans collect their poops. And make him happy. That is to dominate the world.

Pedro Zuazua is the author of A cat does not enter my house (Duomo)

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