The wonderful thing about magical realism is that it can be as simple or complex as you wish and make an impact either way. Anatoli Scholz’s elegant work takes a classic trope and spins it a new form, set in modern-day Paris.
If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? is about Julie, who wakes up one morning to discover she’s a cat. For the rest of the day, she tries to figure out why and whether she even wants to be human again. Here’s some extra detail into the psychological novella’s key qualities.
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Variation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis
Any story that has someone waking up as another creature can’t avoid being compared to Franz Kafka’s famous work, ‘Metamorphosis’. Scholz’s variation follows a different path of self-discovery, less grungy, more humorous and graceful.
While the writing and message of If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? could have been much clearer and powerful, it’s a refreshing take that gives characters and readers a more pleasant environment to contemplate the human nature.
Up until her transformation, Julie was an introvert doing her best to exist in a world with extrovert expectations. Her anxieties as a human are as relatable as her relief to be rid of them as a cat. No responsibilities. No stressful relationships. No restrictive social norms. A cat’s life is simpler – or so Julie thinks.
Her character is conveyed quite well and so are those of friends and family who try to help. Her overbearing and simultaneously absent mother is especially memorable. Basically, different personalities come and go to make Julie think about her previous and current life.
Interesting Introspective Themes
If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? flits between Julie’s present and her memories. It focuses a lot on her encounters with people, like a trio of cataphiles and a charming park warden, that present interesting ideas about conformity and how some people escape it.
The protagonist’s emotional journey to understanding her transformation, as well as her feelings about it, is effective, but, unfortunately, not quite complete. The words spent promoting Paris could have gone into developing the actual plot, making it stronger and tying in its themes more clearly.
If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? is a fun little read with an array of intriguing psychological and social concepts. The Parisian frame adds some elegant texture to the narrative, which, at its core, explores what it means to be human and what would be lost if you suddenly turned into a cat.
Want more existential magical realism? Here are are some suggestions…