A winner of Japan’s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award captures life’s ephemeral nature in a tender narrative about a Tokyo couple’s attachment to a neighbor’s cat.
The simplest of relationships often elicit the most complex emotions, as two freelance editors discover in an eloquent tale written by poet and essayist Hiraide and translated by Selland. The husband and wife, who lease a guesthouse on the grounds of an old estate in Tokyo, have lived quietly since quitting their corporate jobs to work as independent contractors, but though they spend more time together in their tiny space, they seem to communicate less and less. The terms of their lease preclude children and pets, so the couple works in semi-isolation from their home, a section of which abuts a tall wooden fence with a knothole separating the grounds from a narrow alley. The optical illusions created by the reflections of passersby walking through the narrow lane create fleeting patterns of life that vanish into thin air, and the couple dubs the path “Lightning Alley.” One day, a small cat appears in the couple’s garden, and the man discovers that the young child of a neighboring family has adopted the tiny creature and named it Chibi. Though the cat doesn’t belong to them, the couple develops a proprietary feeling for the cat as their lives become more centered around its visits. They begin to take joy in small pleasures as the cat, always on its own terms, slips between their neighbors’ home and theirs and even explore options to remain in Chibi’s life when they’re told they must find a new place to live.
A multifaceted tale that explores love and the fragility of life; the author creates an introspective, poetic story that's deeply moving. Cat lovers may be especially moved.