"Brian Nishii narrates this imaginative tale set in Japan about the complexities of death, life, and cats...A brief, charming parable." AudioFile Magazine
The international phenomenon that has sold over a million copies in Japan, If Cats Disappeared from the World is a funny, heartwarming, and profound meditation on the meaning of life.
The postman’s days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage to keep him company, he was unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live. But before he can tackle his bucket list, the Devil appears to make him an offer: In exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, our narrator will get one extra day of life. And so begins a very bizarre week…
With each object that disappears the postman reflects on the life he’s lived, his joys and regrets, and the people he’s loved and lost.
Genki Kawamura’s timeless tale is a moving story of loss and reconciliation, of one man’s journey to discover what really matters most in life.
Praise for If Cats Disappeared from the World:
"At first, If Cats Disappeared from the World feels as light and puzzling as a fairy tale, but then, steadily, chapter by chapterusing nothing more than conversation, memory, and a winning narrator's searching, sensitive thought experimentsit raises its cosmic stakes higher than any thriller. Like a padding cat or the shadow of death, Genki Kawamura's book snuck up on me; the next thing I knew, I was crying." Robin Sloan, New York Times bestselling author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 5.80(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
GENKI KAWAMURA is an internationally bestselling author. If Cats Disappeared from the World was his first novel and has sold over a million copies in Japan, and has been translated into over 10 different languages. His other novels are Million Dollar Man and April Come She Will. He has also written children's picture books including Tinny & The Balloon, MOOM, and Monster Patisserie. Kawamura occasionally produces, directs, and writes movies, and is a showrunner as well.
ERIC SELLAND is a poet, translator, and the author. His translation of The Guest Cat, a novel by Takashi Hiraide, was on the New York Times bestseller list in February 2014.
Read an Excerpt
THE DEVIL MAKES HIS APPEARANCE
I couldn't think of ten things I wanted to do before I died.
I saw a movie once where the heroine is about to die, so she makes a list of ten things she wants to do before she passes away.
Ugh, what a load of crap. Maybe I shouldn't be so harsh. But seriously, what even goes on a list like that? A bunch of junk probably.
How would I know that? Okay, look, I don't really know, but I tried writing that stupid list and, let me tell you, I'm embarrassed of the results.
It all started seven days ago. I had this cold that I just couldn't shake, but I kept going to work delivering mail every day despite it. I had a slight fever that was plaguing me and a pounding migraine on the right side of my head. Since I hate going to the doctor, I was just barely keeping myself together with the help of some over-the-counter drugs, but after two weeks with no improvement I finally caved in.
That's when I found out it wasn't a cold. It was, in fact, a brain tumor. Stage 4.
The doctor told me I had only six months to live, tops, but I'd be lucky if I made it another week. Then he explained my options — chemotherapy, anticancer drugs, palliative care ... but I had stopped listening.
I was thinking about how when I was little we used to go to the pool during our summer vacation. One time I jumped into the cold blue water with a splash, and then sank slowly to the bottom.
"You have to warm up before you jump in!"
It was my mother's voice. But underwater she sounded muffled. For some reason this strange memory popped into my head. It was a moment I'd almost completely forgotten until now.
I couldn't be in the examination room any longer. I decided to end the appointment. The doctor's words still hung in the air as I lurched out of the room, and I ran outside screaming and knocking into pedestrians around me, ignoring the doctor's pleas for me to stop. I stumbled and fell to the ground. When I picked myself back up again, I ran through the streets with my arms flailing around wildly until I reached the foot of a bridge and felt like I couldn't run any farther; then I sank to my knees and let out a sob.
* * *
Well, no, that's a lie. Maybe that's not exactly what happened.
The fact of the matter is, in reality people tend to be surprisingly calm when they hear news like this.
When I found out my diagnosis, the first thought that popped into my head was that I was one stamp away from earning a free massage at the spa, and also that I shouldn't have stocked up on so much toilet paper and laundry detergent during my last shopping trip.
But it wasn't long until I was overcome by a bottomless sadness. I was only thirty years old. Okay, I know that means that I've lived longer than Hendrix and Basquiat, but somehow I felt like I still had a lot of unfinished business. There must be something, I didn't know what, but something on this planet that only I was meant to accomplish.
But I didn't really dwell on any of this. Instead I wandered in a daze until I reached the train station, where I spotted a couple of young guys playing guitar and singing.
This life will someday have to end, so until that final day arrives,
Do what you want to do, do it, do all you can,
That's how you face tomorrow.
Idiots, I thought. Now that's what I call a complete lack of imagination. No wonder they're wasting their time singing and panhandling their lives away in front of this god-awful station.
I was so angry I couldn't bear to wait around for the train and listen to these two guys go on any longer, so I decided to head home on foot and take my sweet time to get back to my apartment. Once I reached home, I clattered up the stairs and opened the cardboard-thin door to the cramped little space that I called home. It was then that the realization of the utter hopelessness of my situation finally caught up with me. The outlook was bad. I mean literally, for I couldn't see a thing all of a sudden, and then I fainted right there on the doorstep.
* * *
When I came to, I was still lying in the doorway. God knows how long I'd been there for. In front of me I could make out the shape of a blurry, round, black-and-white ball with gray patches. The ball made a noise: "Meow." That's when I realized it was a cat. But not just any cat; it was my cat, the one I've been living with for four years now. He came closer and let out another meow. I took this as a sign that he was worried about me. But since I wasn't dead yet, I righted myself and sat up. I still had a fever and my head continued to throb. Then reality hit me again and I realized this wasn't a dream. I really was sick.
Then, out of nowhere, someone's voice bellowed from across the room:
"Hello! So great to meet you!"
I looked up and there I was. I mean, it was me, standing there, looking at me. Although technically it couldn't be me because I was still sitting in the doorway to the apartment. Maybe it was someone who looked just like me, I thought. The word "doppelgänger" sprang to mind. I had read something about this sort of thing in a book ages ago. There's another you who appears when you're about to die.
Had I finally gone crazy? I wondered. Was my time already up? My head was starting to spin, but I knew I had to tackle whatever it was that was standing before me head-on.
"Um, who are you?"
"Who do you think?"
"Uhh ... the angel of death?"
"I'm the devil."
"Yes, the devil!"
And that's how, in a surprisingly low-key kind of way, the devil appeared in my life.
Have you ever seen him? Well, I have, and he's not what you'd expect. The real devil doesn't have a scary red face or a pointy tail, and there's no pitchfork in sight! The devil looks just like you. So I guess the real doppelgänger is the devil!
It was a shocking discovery and a lot to process in the moment, but what could I do about it? Here was the devil in my apartment, and surprisingly enough, he seemed like a nice guy, so I decided not to freak out and to just go along with it.
Upon closer inspection, I realized that although the devil looked exactly like me, we couldn't have been more different when it came to our sense of style. I always dress in basic black and white. I mostly wear black slacks with a plain white shirt and a black sweater. Boring, I know, but that's just who I am deep down — a monotone guy. I remember ages ago my mother once got fed up with my wardrobe choices. "There you go buying the same thing over and over again," she'd complain, but to this day I still find myself sticking to my comfort zone whenever I go shopping.
The devil, on the other hand, dresses, um, shall we say, unconventionally? Brightly colored Hawaiian shirts with patterns of palm trees and classic American cars, board shorts, and a pair of Ray-Bans propped on top of his head — as if he were permanently on vacation. Despite it being freezing outside, for the king of the underworld, clearly it was always summer.
"So what are you going to do now?" he inquired.
"I mean, you haven't got a lot of time left ... you know, your life expectancy thing and all that."
"Oh, that, right ..."
"So, what are you going to do?"
"Well, I thought maybe I'd start with coming up with a list of ten things ..."
"Ugh, don't tell me you're going to copy that old movie cliché, are you?"
"Yeah, sort of, I guess ..."
"You'd really do something that corny?"
"You think that's a bad move?"
"Well, I mean, sure, a lot of people do it and proclaim they'll check every last item off of their bucket list ... You know the kind, right? It's a phase that everyone goes through at least once. Although I guess it's not as if you get a second chance now, do you?" Holding his sides, the devil let out a huge guffaw at this last thought.
"I don't really see what's so funny about this ..."
"Ah, right, right ... of course. Hm ... Well, I guess you never know until you try, right? Why don't we draw up a quick list right now then," he suggested.
So I got out a sheet of blank paper and wrote at the top of the page, "10 Things I Want to Do Before I Die." Then I paused. I started feeling even more depressed immediately.
I'm going to die any day now, and here I am wasting my time writing up lists? You've got to be kidding.
It was difficult at first to organize my thoughts, but somehow I managed to cobble a list together, despite the fact that the entire time I was working I had to avoid the devil, who was constantly trying to peek over my shoulder. And not to mention the fact that at one point I also had to forcibly remove the cat from my desk, because like all cats he always thinks it's good idea to sit on whatever you're trying to work on or read.
So, after all that, here's the list I came up with:
1. Go skydiving.
2. Climb Mount Everest.
3. Speed along on the autobahn in a Ferrari.
4. Indulge in a three-day-long feast of gourmet Chinese food.
5. Take a ride on a Transformer's back.
6. Fly to Paris and fall in love.
7. Go on a date with Princess Leia.
8. Turn a corner just in time to bump into a beautiful woman who's carrying a cup of coffee, then watch our passionate love affair unfold.
9. During a torrential rainstorm, run for shelter under the same awning as the girl I had a crush on in school.
10. Did I mention that I'd like to fall in love? Just once ...
"Ugh, what is this?" the devil asked incredulously. "Are you being serious?"
"Uh, well, you know ...," I stammered.
"C'mon, you're not a schoolboy anymore! Frankly, I'm a little embarrassed for you."
"Sorry! I'm so sorry."
Yeah, I know, I'm pathetic. I had racked my brains and this was the best I could come up with. Even the cat looked disgusted with me. I could tell he was keeping his distance.
"There, there now ..." The devil patted me on the shoulder in an attempt to cheer me up. "Okay, tell ya what, why don't we see about taking that skydiving trip, huh? Just a quick visit to the ATM and then it's off to the airport we go!"
Two hours later I found myself on a jet plane three miles up in the air.
"Okay, ready?" asked the devil, cheerful as ever. "Geronimo!" he hollered as he gave me a shove, and the next thing I knew I was falling out of the plane.
It was as I'd always dreamed it would be. The bright blue sky opened up, the clouds towered around me, and the earth's horizon stretched on forever. I always thought that things would never look the same again after I'd seen the world from so high up, that I'd suddenly stop sweating the small stuff and realize that I need to grab life by the horns.
But that's not how it went at all. Instead I instantly regretted my decision, before I'd even jumped. I was cold and way high up there on the plane, and the whole thing was just terrifying.
Why would someone go and jump out of a plane of their own free will? Was this what I really wanted? I pondered these things as I fell to earth, before a darkness consumed me once again.
When I came to, this time I was lying on my bed back home in my tiny apartment. Again, it was the cat's meow that roused me. I struggled to sit upright with my head throbbing and feeling worse than ever.
"Do not make me do that again!" I screamed.
Aloha (I decided that the devil, decked as he was in his Hawaiian shirt, would henceforth be known as Aloha) was sitting on the edge of my bed, his brow creased with worry.
"My apologies for the inconvenience."
"Hey, I could've died out there ... Well, okay, I realize I'm going to die anyway, but really ..."
Aloha was splitting his sides.
Unimpressed with his joke, I scooped the cat up and snuggled him against my chest for comfort. He was warm and soft — a smooth, fluffy ball of fur in my arms. I'd cuddled up with the little guy countless times over the years without thinking much about it, but now, for the first time ever, it occurred to me that maybe this little act of comfort was what life was all about.
"The thing is, there's just not many things I want to do before I die," I admitted.
"At least, I don't think I could come up with ten. And the ones I can think of are all probably pretty boring."
"Well, I guess that's life, huh?"
"I guess ..." I trailed off. "Well, actually, I was wondering. Could I ask you something?"
"Yeah, I was wondering ... why did you come here? I mean, what are you doing here?"
Aloha let out an unsettling laugh, then asked deviously, "Do you really want to know? Well, then, I'll tell you."
"Uh ... Okay, now you're scaring me." The sudden change in Aloha's tone made me wince. I had a bad feeling about this. All my instincts were telling me that there was trouble up ahead.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
Did I really want to hear whatever he was about to say? I wondered. I took a deep breath to steel my nerves. It's okay, I'll be okay, I reassured myself. I'm just asking a question. Nothing wrong with asking a simple question.
"Nothing. It's fine," I said. "I'd like to know. So go ahead. Shoot."
"Well, it turns out you're going to die tomorrow."
"Your time's up tomorrow. That's what I came here to tell you."
I was stunned speechless. The initial shock was followed swiftly by a feeling of deep despair, and suddenly my entire body felt weak and my knees trembled.
"Hey, don't be so down," said Aloha in a cheerful tone. "Look at me, I'm here to help! This is your way out. I've come to make you an offer."
"Way out? What do you mean?"
"You don't want to die now, do you? In your sorry state?"
"No, I want to live ... if I can."
Without missing a beat Aloha went on: "Well, then, there is something we could do ..."
"Do? What do you mean?"
"Well, you could call it a kind of magic. I could, perhaps, prolong your life span."
"But there's one condition, and you must accept this one fundamental law of the universe."
"And that is?"
"In order to gain something, you have to lose something."
"What does that mean exactly?"
"Oh, nothing too complicated. It's just a matter of a simple exchange."
"Exchange of what?"
"All you have to do is remove one thing from the world, and in return, you'll get one more day of life."
"You're kidding. That's all?" I might have been desperate, but I hadn't completely lost my mind. I wondered what gave Aloha the right to make such an offer in the first place.
"Now, you're probably wondering what gives me the right to do that."
"Uh ... No, what makes you say that?" Was he for real? Did Aloha have ESP? I wondered.
"Of course I can read minds! Hello, I'm the devil, remember?"
"Of course you can."
"Anyway, I don't want to rush you, but we don't have much time, so you're going to have to get on board quickly. Are you with me? A simple transaction is all I ask for."
"So says you."
"Okay, then, since you don't believe me, let me tell you how this transaction came to be," he said, lying back and making himself comfortable next to me on the bed. "You're familiar with the Book of Genesis?"
"You mean the Bible? Yes, I'm somewhat familiar with it, but I've never actually read through it."
"Oh, that's too bad. This would have gone a lot faster if you had."
"Whatever, it's fine. I'll just give you the highlights. First of all, God created the world in seven days."
"Yeah, I've heard this part."
Aloha continued, "On the first day the world was covered in darkness; then God said, 'Let there be light!' and then there was day and night. On the second day, God created the heavens, and on the third day he created the earth — now that's what I call one helluva creation! Next thing you know the oceans swelled and plants took root."
"Pretty impressive," I agreed.
"You're telling me!" Aloha continued, "And then, on the fourth day he created the sun, the moon, and the stars in the sky, and the universe was born! On the fifth day fish and birds were created, and on the sixth day he created animals, and made man in his own image. That's when you enter the picture!"
"Yes, I remember it now. The creation of heaven and earth, the cosmos, and then humankind makes an appearance. And on the seventh day? What happened?"
"On the seventh day he rested. Even God needs to take a break now and then."
"And that's Sunday, right?"
"Exactly. Now isn't that incredible? He did all that in just seven days. This dude is just awesome! You know, I have so much respect for him."
I'm no expert, but it seemed to me that referring to God as a "dude" was a tad disrespectful.
Aloha continued, "The first man's name was Adam. But God thought he might be lonely since he was the only human around, so he created a woman, Eve, from Adam's rib. But then the two of them were just hanging out without much to do, so I decided to spice things up a bit. I suggested to God that I get them to eat the apple."
"Right. See, the two of them were living in the Garden of Eden, which was a kind of paradise where they could do anything they wanted and eat anything they wanted. But that's not all, there was no such thing as aging or death. There was just one thing they weren't allowed to do — to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That's where the apple comes in ... the forbidden fruit."
"I paid Adam and Eve a visit and suggested to them that they eat the apple, and y'know what? They actually did it!"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "If Cats Disappeared From The World"
Copyright © 2012 Genki Kawamura.
Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Monday: The Devil Makes His Appearance
Tuesday: A World Without Phones
Wednesday: A World Without Movies
Thursday: A World Without Clocks
Friday: A World Without Cats
Saturday: A World Without Me
Sunday: Good-Bye, World
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What would you do if the Devil came to you and offered you one more day to live? The catch is that something has to disappear from the world forever. What would you be willing to give up, if anything? That’s the conundrum facing a dying Japanese postman. A slim volume full of heart and humor. The story is told by the postman and he’s funny, and at the same time philosophical and introspective. It makes you think about your own life and what regrets you might have and all the things you’d like to do before you die. Definitely a worthwhile read.