First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.


“I am a cat. As yet I have no name,”

So begins one of the most original and unforgettable works in Japanese literature.

Richly allegorical and delightfully readable, I Am a Cat is the chronicle of an unloved, unwanted, wandering kitten who spends all his time observing human nature – from the dramas of businessmen and schoolteachers to the foibles of priests and potentates. From this unique perspective, author Sōseki Natsume offers a biting commentary – shaped by his training in Chinese philosophy – on the social upheaval of the Meiji era.

I Am a Cat first appeared in ten installments in the literary magazine Hototogisu (Cuckoo), between 1905 and 1906. Sōseki had not intended to write more than the short story that makes up the first chapter of this book. After its critical and popular success, he expanded it into this epic novel, which is universally recognized as a classic of world literature.

Happy weekend everyone! Another workweek is done! I hope that the week went in favor of everyone. Else, I hope that you will spend the weekend recovering or resting. Such a cycle our lives have become. I hope that everyone is doing well, in mind, body, and spirit. The World Health Organization has finally ended the COVID-19 global health emergency. Nevertheless, I hope that everyone will still observe the minimum health standards as the threat is still very much present; I had to miss nearly two weeks at work because I tested positive for the second time. I am doing better now, thankfully.

To cap the work week, I will be sharing a new First Impression Friday update. I opened April with a travel to the Land of the Rising Sun which then led me to explore one of my favorite parts of the world of literature: Japanese literature. I spent April reading the works of Japanese writers whose oeuvre I previously have not explored. It was, to say the least, a very interesting journey filled with pleasant surprises. Because I am still having a hangover, I have decided to extend this journey in May, but now I will be focusing on the works of familiar writers. I have already ticked off Haruki Murakami (Dance Dance Dance) and Yukio Mishima (Forbidden Colors). I am now reading Natsume Sōseki’s I Am a Cat.

I Am a Cat is my third novel by Natsume Sōseki, and first since Kokoro which I read back in 2021. It is a book I have long been looking forward to ever since I first encountered it during a random trip to the bookstore. I, however, have put on hold purchasing the book because I was hoping I can find a hardbound copy of it. Unfortunately, I was not able to do so, thus, I settled with what was readily available. Besides, I can no longer keep the tenterhook. The proverbial nail in the coffin, actually, was my growing interest in feline-related works of Japanese literature. It wasn’t lost on me how cats have recently proliferated with cats, with works such as Hiro Arikawa’s The Travelling Cat Chronicles and Sôsuke Natsukawa’s The Cat Who Saved Books earning global recognition. Even popular writer Haruki Murakami featured cats in his surrealist works; interestingly, Murakami has cited Sōseki as one of his major literary influences, sparking renewed interest in Sōseki’s works.

In a way, I Am a Cat seems to be the father of all of these feline works. It was originally published in serial form from 1905 to 1906 as 吾輩は猫である (Wagahai wa Neko de Aru) in the literary magazine Hototogisu (Cuckoo). I also learned that Sōseki initially had no plans going beyond the short story that constituted the first chapter of the novel. Because of the popularity of the short story, Takahama Kyoshi, one of the editors of Hototogisu, persuaded Sōseki to serialize the work. I Am a Cat would go down as one of the most recognized works of Japanese literature. It would even form part of the Japanese educational system. So what is the hype all about?

At the heart of the novel is a cat. Surprise, surprise! He was a stray kitten but has taken residence in the home of a teacher of modest means and abilities. He would refer to him as his master. However, the cat was never given a name, an indication that his presence was not really acknowledged or welcomed by the members of the household. For comparison, in Hiro Arikawa’s The Travelling Cat Chronicles, Satoru, the novel’s central character, immediately named a stray cat he nursed and eventually adopted; the two would form a bond. Not that this comparison really matters because I am cognizant that I Am a Cat is a satire. Sōseki established a reputation for his commentary on the Meiji era (1868 – 1912) in his works.

Like the other feline works that succeeded the book, the cat at the heart of I Am a Cat was used as a vessel to observe his surroundings. He was a means to observe human behavior, from the complex to the quotidian. The cat was so invested in these interactions that he has become so in tune with human behavior. At one point, he felt less like a cat and more like a human being. Snatches of interactions between different individuals, particularly between his master and his friends and acquaintances, formed the backbone of the story. Apart from his master, the other prominent characters the cat met were Waverhouse, the teacher’s friend; and Coldmoon, a young scholar. Both are regular visitors to the master’s home.

What makes the novel entertaining were the cat’s tone and voice. After all, this is a work of satire. I am less than a hundred pages into the book and I must say that I am getting more and more riveted. The social commentaries which the book promises are keeping me even more invested. I am also interested in the direction that the novel is going to take. With four hundred pages more to go, I am going to sit back and relax, and simply enjoy what Sōseki has in store. How about you fellow reader? What book or books are you taking with you for the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy them. Again, happy weekend everyone!