Thursday, 4 October 2018

If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura

If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura
First published in Japanese in Japan in 2018. English language translation by Eric Selland published by Picador on the 20th September 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository
Amazon US / Amazon UK

A beautifully moving tale of loss and reaching out to the ones we love, of one man’s journey to discover what really matters in modern life.

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.

I was attracted to If Cats Disappeared From The World by its philosophical premise, its cats and death themes (perfect October reading subjects), and the adorable kitten on the cover. I also liked that this book is translated by Eric Selland whose work I previously read in The Guest Cat - a wonderful Japanese novel. I hoped that If Cats Disappeared From The World would have the emotional heft of The Guest Cat or even A World Without Color. Unfortunately I felt it was too light and didn't explore its themes as deeply as I would have liked.

Kawamura poses ideas and situations such as the appearance of the Devil or the vanishing of various aspects of modern life, but doesn't follow though into their hows or whys or really explore the implications. Plus our narrator doesn't actually seem that distressed by his imminent demise if the story is to be taken at face value as written.  I could empathise with our narrator's predicament at times, but often felt quite distanced from him too. Perhaps this story is all a surreal hallucination caused by the stress of his diagnosis? I could connect more strongly when the story focused on the narrator's mother and her first cat Lettuce. These sections felt much more emotional and I could envisage the characters in these scenes. The fantastical elements of If Cats Disappeared From The World however left me unsatisfied.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Genki Kawamura / Contemporary fiction / Books from Japan


  1. I love how thought provoking this is! Like.. if I was out in the same situation.. what would I do???

    1. Exactly! What would you get rid of - and how would that affect everyone else

  2. What an interesting idea for a story.

  3. I kind of don't mind the distance from the narrator. I feel like I would still like this book. The way you describe it is what I've been expecting. Happy you were able to like it overall though.

    1. It's one that I think I would have liked more had I not actually read the synopsis. I expected something more emotional so was thrown by that whereas if the synopsis had focused more on the fantasy and humour I could have had more realistic expectations. It's still worth a read though and I'll be interested to learn what you think