“There is something just as inevitable as death. And that is life.”
If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura warmed my heart while simultaneously breaking it. This is such a poignantly told tale of magical realism.
The narrator of If Cats Disappeared from the World is a young, single postman from Japan who has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. After receiving this crushing diagnosis from his doctor, he arrives home at his apartment to find the devil. The devil makes a deal with him: he will grant one additional day of life to the narrator for each item that he chooses to eliminate from the world.
Each chapter of If Cats Disappeared from the World follows one day in the last week of the narrator’s life as he agrees to eliminate phones, movies, clocks, etc., from the world. But what about his beloved cats? Would he be willing to sacrifice them to prolong his life one more day?
Every day, the absence of these items floods our introspective narrator with memories of his loves and his regrets: his ex-girlfriend, his best friend, his mother, his father, his childhood cat (Lettuce), and his current feline friend (Cabbage). The narrator eloquently describes the universal pain of losing loved ones and of strained relationships.
If Cats Disappeared from the World is a beautifully written novel. The poignant scenes from the narrator are juxtaposed with humorous commentary from the devil, striking just the right emotional balance throughout the book.
Genki Kawamura’s writing is heavily influenced by Haruki Murakami. As in Murakami’s classic, Kafka on the Shore, Kawamura’s cat, Cabbage, even talks. If someone were to scratch Genki Kawamura’s name off the cover and write Haruki Murakami as the author, I would not doubt for a moment that I was reading a genuine Murakami novel. The imitation of Murakami’s themes and style is that authentic.
Normally I would deduct a star for mimicking another writer’s style so closely, but I can’t do that here because If Cats Disappeared from the World is just so good. If this were a Murakami book, it would rank among his best. The introspective nature and emotional impact of this book rank up there with Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, one of my all-time favorite novels.
Five very enthusiastic stars for If Cats Disappeared from the World, Genki Kawamura’s heartfelt debut novel.