Book//mark – I Am a Cat | Natsume Sōseki, 1905-1906

Natsume Sōseki, I Am a Cat, 1905-1906                                                      Natsume Sōseki, 1912
 First edition  in English translation, 1909                                                                                          

“Living as I do with human beings, the more that I observe them,
the more I am forced to conclude that they are selfish.”

“It is painfully easy to define human beings. They are beings who,
for no good reason at all, create their own unnecessary suffering.”

“Of all the tribulations in this world, boredom is the one most hard to bear.”

“Thus, as I review the list of my friends and acquaintances, most of them emerge as stained with
maniac stigmata of one sort or another. I begin to feel considerably reassured. The truth may
simply be that human society is no more than a massing of lunatics.”

“Had I the time to keep a diary, I’d use that time to better effect; sleeping on the veranda.”

“He is totally abandoned in the way he buys book after book, never to read a single one. I wouldn’t mind if he used his head and
bought in moderation, but no. Whenever the mood takes him, he ambles off to the biggest bookshop in the city and brings back
home as many books as chance to catch his fancy. Then, at the end of the month, he adopts an attitude of complete detachment.”

“It would seem that for my master a book is not a thing to be read, but a device to bring on
slumber: a typographical sleeping-pill, a paginated security blanket.”

“Even the works of Shakespeare might be more thoroughly appreciated if they were re-examined from
unorthodox positions. Someone, once in a while, should take a good long look at Hamlet through his legs.”

“Sunshine, unlike other things, is distributed fairly. It falls impartially upon the rich and the poor.”

“If the Creator should take the line that I am born to work and not to sleep, I would agree that
I am indeed born to work but I would also make the unanswerable point that I cannot work unless I also rest.”

“You must not speak ill of other persons. After all, everyone dies when their allotted span is over.”

“Secretiveness is a most mysterious matter. However well one guards a secret, sooner or later it’s bound to come out.”

“In the old days, a man was taught to forget himself. Today it is quite different: he is taught not to forget himself and
he accordingly spends his days and nights in endless self-regard. Who can possibly know peace in such an eternally
burning hell? The apparent realities of this awful world, even the beast lines of being, are all symptoms of that
sickness for  which the only cure lies in learning to forget the self.”

“The trouble with women is that they talk too much. It would be good if human beings would keep as silent as this cat.”

“There is nothing quite so terrifying as the results of education.”

“There is nothing in the world more pleasant than to eat something one
has never yet eaten, or to see something one has never seen before.”

“It is of course true that the human creature characteristically prides itself on its self-reliance.
However, it would be more exact to say that the creature, knowing it can’t rely upon itself, would
very much like to believe that it could and is consequently never at ease with itself until it can
give a practical demonstration to some other such creature of how much it can rely upon itself.”

“The plain fact is that humans, one and all, are merely thieves at heart.”

“At ordinary times, most human beings are wearisomely ordinary; depressingly banal in appearance
and deadly boring in their conversation. However, at certain moments, by some peculiar, almost
supernatural, process their normal triviality can be transformed into something so weird and
wonderful that no feline scholar of their species can afford to miss any occasion when that
transformation seems likely to take place.”

“The world’s evaluations of an individual’s social worth, like the slits in my eyeballs, change with
time and circumstance. In point of fact my pupil-slits vary but modestly between broad and narrow,
but mankind’s judgements turn somersaults and cartwheels for no conceivable reason.”

“But facts, remembered or not, are all, alas, still facts”

“To be as comfortably off as you are is, after all, the best way to be.”

Natsume Sōseki, I Am a Cat, 1905-1906


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