Cat Power

2 minute read
Bryan Walsh

Haruki Murakami’s new novel 1Q84 follows the Japanese author’s patented formula: a detached male protagonist, a weird teenage girl with mystical insights, a creepy authoritarian cult and, of course, cats.

Cats are key to Murakami. The jazz bar he once ran was called Peter Cat, and Murakami himself is catlike: aloof and independent, fastidious yet dreamy. Cats are frequent characters in Murakami novels too–and the more cats, the better. Hence our ratings.


In “Town of Cats,” a story that the protag-onist reads to his father, a traveler visits a place populated only by cats and finds himself “irretrievably lost.” The town of cats becomes shorthand for the dark places 1Q84’s heroes must go to seek hard truths.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

After Toru Okada’s cat disappears, his wife follows suit, and Toru searches for both–a quest that takes him down a well and back into the suppressed memories of Japanese wartime atrocities. (Only the cat comes back.)

Sputnik Sweetheart

A character relays a story about a woman who died alone in her apartment, her corpse left undiscovered for days. Her hungry pet cats “devour the flesh of their owner.” The lesson: cats can be your best friends–until they eat your face.

A Wild Sheep Chase

Murakami’s protagonists can’t handle human relationships–Sheep Chase’s chain-smoking narrator is divorced and desultorily employed–but always have time to take care of a cat. Even one with certain gastrointestinal issues.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Did you know that after Murakami started writing, he began running as well, becoming a marathoner? And that he wrote a book about how his running fuels his writing, enabling him to turn out book after book? That is so un-cat.

Kafka on the Shore

Talking cats! People who talk to cats! Liquor-bottle mascots who murder cats and eat their hearts! Kafka has more cat references than any other Murakami novel, and here they are emissaries from a world of spirits and dreams. Feline literary heaven.

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