If Cats Disappeared From the World by Genki Kawamura
When a young man learns of a limited prognosis, he doesn’t get very far into his bucket list before the devil appears to offer a trade: get rid of one thing from the world per day for an extra day of life
Soseki Natsume’s 1905 serialised satire I am a Cat critiqued Japanese society through the eyes of a philosopher’s witty cat, and If Cats Disappeared from the World could be considered a contemporary successor. It’s on its way to being similarly popular, selling over a million copies in Japan. When a young man learns of a limited prognosis, he doesn’t get very far into his bucket list before the devil appears to offer a trade: get rid of one thing from the world per day for an extra day of life.
Phones are the first to go, the conundrum presenting opportunity to think about how they shape relationships. For all the scrolling contacts, how many of them are close friends? “Countless people who I seemed to have had some kind of relationship, but when push came to shove, didn’t really share much with me at all… my life was over and I had no-one who mattered enough to call.”
Movies come next. “Basically, all humans really need to survive is food, shelter, and water… if all movies disappeared, would it feel like part of me had gone too?”
Finally, it’s time to weigh up the arguable star of the book, Cabbage the cat, who sneaks out at night for bonito flakes and purrs softly. Despite occasional gimmicky inner dialogue, this brief existential enquiry into life’s priorities is gently charming.
Picador, out now, £8.99