[Review] If Cats Disappeared from the World - Genki Kawamura

Title of Book:
If Cats Disappeared from the World
Author: Genki Kawamura
Translator: Eric Selland
Publisher: Picador
Publication Year: 2018
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Pages: 202

Our narrator’s days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage for company, he was unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live. But before he can set about tackling his bucket list, the Devil appears with a special offer: in exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, he can have one extra day of life. And so begins a very bizarre week . . .
Because how do you decide what makes life worth living? How do you separate out what you can do without from what you hold dear? In dealing with the Devil our narrator will take himself – and his beloved cat – to the brink. Genki Kawamura's If Cats Disappeared from the World is a story of loss and reconciliation, of one man’s journey to discover what really matters in modern life.
This beautiful tale is translated from the Japanese by Eric Selland, who also translated The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide. Fans of The Guest Cat and The Travelling Cat Chronicles will also surely love If Cats Disappeared from the World.

If Cats Disappeared from the World follows a young male who worked as a postman. One day he found out that he had brain tumor and he didn’t have long to live. Unexpectedly, the devil appeared before him and made him an offer. He could give the narrator one more day to live in exchange of making something disappear from the world. Our narrator then tried to live out his last days by making a pact with the devil.

With this book, I had no expectation whatsoever. Honestly, the reason I picked this book is the cat. Little did I know this book will leave such an impression on me. If Cats Disappeared from the World emphasizes the meaning of phrase ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’. That phrase is the premise of this book. The devil in this book literally asked the narrator to decide on making something disappear from the world. Faced with that situation, we’re forced to take a closer look at our life and our surrounding. It’s funny how we’re so used to things that we take them all for granted. Through this experience, the narrator gained a new appreciation on things that seem to be complicated, but were invented to actually make our life easier and more meaningful.

This book references many pop culture especially films. There is one quote in this book that hits me hard which is quoted from Charlie Chaplin.
‘Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.’
The narrator remembered this quote when he was faced with the reality that his death came closer. When you’re faced with your mortality, I think it’s natural to look at your life and reminisce what have happened and what you wish to happen if you have more time in the world. I guess that’s what bring the quote back to the narrator’s mind. In a way, he invites us to take a look at our life too. It gave me this somber and nostalgic feeling while reading the book.

The ending though is what truly broke my heart. It’s not even because the narrator is dying. It’s the cat which has so much meaning to the narrator since that’s how he connected with his mother. The narrator never really had a close relationship with his father especially after his mother died of sickness several years earlier. When the devil asked him to make cats disappear from the world, that’s when he’s confronted to evaluate his relationship with his family.

Overall, If Cats Disappeared from the World is the kind of book that would make you contemplate on life. Personally, I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed reading this book since I ended up bawling my eyes out. That’s not fun but was needed, so I’m glad I read this book. If you want to read a book for some self reflection, I recommend this book to read.

‘I guess it’s the same with life. We all know it has to end someday, but even so we act as if we’re going to live forever.’

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