Welcome to the discussion for the third, and final, volume of I Am a Cat by Sōseki Natsume.
Historical and Cultural Context
However, anyone interested in deepening his understanding of this fascinating subject is always welcome to call upon me, bearing a proper fee in dried bonito, for further instruction. (p. 369)
Dried bonito, or katsuobushi, is a staple ingredient in Japanese cooking.
One may reasonably compare this process to the happenings in September 1905 when the populace of Tokyo, dissatisfied with the terms of the Treaty of Portsmouth, took to burning police boxes. (p. 374)
The first thing he noticed was a photo of Itō Hirobumi standing on his head. (p. 488)
The progressive positivism of Western civilization has certainly produced some notable results, but, in the end, it is no more than a civilisation of the inherently dissatisfied, a culture for unhappy peoples. The traditional civilization of Japan does not look for satisfaction by some change in the condition of others but in that of the self. The main difference between the West and Japan is that the latter civilization has developed on the basic assumption that one's external environment cannot be significantly changed. ... If some mountain range blocks our free passage to a neighboring country, we do not seek to flatten the mountain, to restructure the natural order. Instead we work out some arrangement under which the need to visit that neighboring country no longer arises. (p. 416)
Since I know so little of the world outside my master's house, it was only recently that I first clapped eyes on a go board. It's a weird contraption, something no sensible cat would ever think up. It's a smallish square divided into myriad smaller squares on which the players position black and white stones in so higgledy-piggledy a human fashion that one's eyes go askew to watch them... (p. 544)
I've included a few questions below to start the discussion, but as always feel free to ask any other questions you may have or comment on any aspect of the book.
What did you think of Volume Three? How does it compare to the previous two volumes?
Do you have a favourite scene from Volume Three?
Did the characters seem real and believable? Could you relate to any of them?
This book is obviously satire, what do you think Sōseki Natsume was trying to say to the reader?
Several references are made throughout the book about the negative consequences of adopting Western values. (See example quote above). Do you think this represents the author's world view?
How do you feel about the ending?
Why does this book continue to appeal to modern-day readers over 100 years after it was originally written?
Overall, what did you think of the translation? And the book as a whole? Are you glad you read it? Would you recommend it to others? Have you read other works by this author? If not, will you do so now?
[Your Question Here...]
Image © Seisen University Library
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'I Am a Cat' Volume One
'I Am a Cat' Volume Two
Thanks so much to everyone who joined in the read-along. I hope you enjoyed the book, and I hope you'll consider participating in some of the other Japanese Literature read-alongs scheduled this year. Next up will be The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami which will run for three months from March to May. The discussion for Book One will begin on March 15th. Hope to see you there!
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