Monday, January 21, 2008

The Cat

The Cat, Or How I Lost Eternity by Jutta Richter and illustrated by Rotraut Susanne Berner (see Jules post at 7 Imp's) - Wow what a title! I have to think differently about books that are translated. I'm certain Anna Brailovsky did a superb job or it wouldn't have won the Batchelder Honor Award. However language, of course, is an expression of culture so this book was of particular interest because my mother is German.

This is the culture of Freud, mastermind of psychoanalysis. I once had a class on Freud at SFSU co-taught by Michael Krasny (an excellent lecturer but Freud is not his forte.) I digress with Freud and Krasny who now appear inseparable in my image mind. The Cat, Or How I Lost Eternity is middle grade fiction, not a picture book which I usually write about. The clever illustrations mark each "spare and philosophical " chapter about an eight-year-old girl, Christine, who befriends an alley cat.

The cat is Christine's antagonist and they communicate telepathically. Here is another good review from the Goethe-Institut. The word for Eternity in German is
Ewigkeit. We know Christine attends catechism class; is Ewigkeit closer in meaning to immortality then perpetuity? Here is an eight-year-old moving beyond SELF prompted by a smelly old cat's philosophy of life. I won't get into the id, ego and super-ego or developmental child psychology because this is a blog about kidslit Thank God. But this book is just as profound for adults as tweens. And I plan to reread it for deeper meaning. The beauty of good literature!

"When the world returned, I was alone. As usual, Waldemar Buck was sawing up eternity- only this time, I understood the cat's fear that eternity wouldn't last.
I had learned one thing: Even if time stood still and the world went under, sooner or later both would reappear."

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