I read and enjoyed a few short stories by this Czech writer as a teenager, but the one that had stuck with me the most is this humorous and delightful story written from a feline point of view. I love the glimpses of genuine affection behind the arrogance.
This beautifully framed, happy chonk was painted by a Chinese artist in the 18th century.
I’m sure this is how my cat would prefer me to feed him every day. I love the addition of the jealous little dog beneath the fluffy feline overlord.
The fat cat on the mat
may seem to dream
of nice mice that suffice
for him, or cream;
but he free, maybe,
walks in thought
unbowed, proud, where loud
roared and fought
his kin, lean and slim,
or deep in den
in the East feasted on beasts
and tender men.
The giant lion with iron
claw in paw,
and huge ruthless tooth
in gory jaw;
the pard dark-starred,
fleet upon feet,
that oft soft from aloft
leaps upon his meat
where woods loom in gloom –
far now they be,
fierce and free,
and tamed is he;
but fat cat on the mat
kept as a pet
he does not forget.
When I look at my cat I see a cute, cuddly, adorable creature. When birds and small mammals look at cats, they probably see something like this nightmarish vision from Picasso’s 1939 painting, likely inspired by the violence of the Spanish Civil War.
It seems that Picasso wasn’t a big fan of the pampered domestic fluff balls:
I hate pure-bred cats that purr on the pillow in the living room. I like feral cats that hunt birds, scamper around the streets like crazy, drag everything they get. They look at you with wild eyes ready to scratch your face.
Louis Wain (1860 – 1939) was an English artist famous for the thousands of sketches and paintings of cats displaying human behaviour. They enchanted the Victorians who were more likely to see cats as a mildly irritating tool of pest control. Some of his art is too saccharine and cutesy for my liking, but I love this painting in which a feline bachelor party is clearly approaching an advanced stage of debauchery. I bet there’s catnip in those cigars!
I want him to have another living summer,
to lie in the sun and enjoy the douceur de vivre –
because the sun, like golden rum in a rummer,
is what makes an idle cat un tout petit peu ivre –
I want him to lie stretched out, contented,
revelling in the heat, his fur all dry and warm,
an Old Age Pensioner, retired, resented
by no one, and happinesses in a beelike swarm
to settle on him – postponed for another season
that last fated hateful journey to the vet
from which there is no return (and age the reason),
which must come soon – as I cannot forget
– Gavin Ewart
When I was compiling the most recent Top Ten Tuesday list dedicated to books with cats on the cover, I realised that I could have simply filled it with covers of Mikhail Bulgakov’s classic, The Master and Margarita, since there were so many of them.
It seems that designers and illustrators just can’t resist Behemoth, the enormous demonic black cat who accompanies Satan on his visit to 1930s Moscow – and who can blame them? He is certainly my favourite fictional feline and makes for a great cover image. Here are some of the book covers I found.