“Take a mouse that thinks it’s a cat”

door Prachtige Pjotr

“Don’t look at me like that. I haven’t thought of it all that seriously myself. I don’t like the weak and the sick sort of people that commit suicide. But there is one variety I accept. People who commit suicide to establish themselves”.

“What sort of suicide is that?”

“Are you interested?”

“A little, maybe”.

“Then I’ll tell you.

Take a mouse that thinks it’s a cat. I don’t know how, but it does. It’s gone through all the tests and concluded that it’s a cat. Its view of other mice changes. They are its meat, that’s all, but it tells itself it refrains from eating them just to hid the fact that it’s a cat”.

“A rather large mouse, I suppose”.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s not a question of size but of confidence. It’s sure that the concept ‘cat’ has taken on the guise ‘mouse’, nothing more. It believes in the concept and not the flesh.The idea is enough, the body doesn’t matter. The happiness from the contempt is all the greater.

“But then one day” – Furusawa shoved this glases up and drew a persuasive line beside his hose – “but then one day the mouse meets a real cat.

“‘I’m going to eat you’, says the cat.

“‘You can’t’, replies the mouse.

“‘And why not?’

“‘Cats don’t eat cats. It’s impossible as a matter of instinct and as a matter of principle. I’m a cat myself, whatever else I may look like’.

“The cat rolls over laughing. It laughs so hard it’s clawing the air and its white furry belly is heaving. Then it gets up and starts to eat the mouse. The mouse protests.

“‘What are you eating me for?’

“‘Because you’re a mouse’.

“‘I’m a cat. Cats don’t eat cats’.

“‘You’re a mouse’.

“‘I’m a cat’.

“‘Prove it’.

“So the mouse jumps into the laundry tub, all with suds, and drowns itself. The cat wets a forepaw and has a lick. The suds taste horrible. So it leaves the body floating there. We all know why the cat goes off without eating the mouse. Because it’s not something for a cat to eat.

“That’s what I’m talking about. The mouse commits suicide to establish itself. It doesn’t of course make the cat recognize it as a cat, and it didn’t think when it killed itself that it would. But it was brave and perceptive and filled with self-respect. I saw that there are two parts to mouseness. First is that it is a mouse in every physical detail. Second is that it is, for a cat, worth eating. Those two. It has long ago given up in the first matter, but in the second there is still hope. It dies in front of the cat without being eaten, and it establishes itself as something that cats don’t eat. In those two respects it has proved it wasn’t a mouse. That much. To prove besides that it was a cat is simple. If something that had the form of a mouse wasn’t a mouse, then it can be anything else. And so the suicide is a success. The mouse had established itself. What do you think?”.

MISHIMA, Yukio, The decay of the angel, Vintage Classics, London, 2001, 118-119.