How does fate originate?
By hiding its existence. It creeps up closer, it gets used to us, and at the moment when we recognize its visage it laughs at us. It’s too late, fate whispers.
Thomas Hürlimann, The Garden Shed
With this motto of Hürlimann in mind my reader will not be surprised that I began to recognize the face of the Cheshire Cat in the visage of my two new kittens – that cat of Alice, out there in her Wonderland, its body fading, beginning with the tail, then finally only its smile in the tree visible.
A smile of scorn it has become in my two kittens.
In the case of Hürlimann fate consisted of only one cat. “From behind the tombstone a miserable creature cautiously crawled out and was now looking at him with wide eyes.” The protagonist is a colonel who, with his wife, regularly visits the grave of his too young deceased son and who will from this moment on sneak food from the house and hide it for the poor animal. That woman would regard this as a desecration of her son …
My two cats know damn well that they have abused the cat love of this resident of 14 La Roche by transforming their invasion into my invitation. Moreover, this incompetent man is not able to determine whether the kittens are male or female. M/F until further notice – that is until the vet will have determined their sex.
When Saki finds that “these beautiful creatures are so fantastically assimilated into our culture, albeit maintaining their highly developed wild instincts”, he hits onto, as they say, the poodle’s core. In Goethe’s Faust the Devil disguises himself as a poodle. We now know that the poodle again disguised himself as a cat and that the cat as such must be a demonic entity.
This is an ancient belief.
That magnificence novel by Robert Menasse, Die Vertreibung aus der Hölle – Exile from Hell – begins with an Autodafe in Madrid in which the Inquisition is publicly crucifying a cat. Cat and devil are sleeping on the same pillow, have hands and paws on the same indecent belly. Meanwhile my neighbour in La Roche, Mme Besnoit now deceased, was like so many people in the country utterly terrified of cats, even without knowing of their ancient bond.
There has been research done about the link between cat, plague and this delusion of faith. The name of this historian I have unfortunately forgotten, but he should be awarded the Nobel Prize for History – if it would exist.
He found a tight link between the eradication of cats at the time of the European Inquisition and the outbreak of the plague. People killed off cats en masse. That disease is, as we now know from medical research, always insidiously present. However, when man removed its natural enemy – the cat – from its natural cycle that rat ran amok and got free reign to invade the towns. The plague was the result.
Pest boils on the body of Grünewald’s Crucified Christ
This close relationship between cat and devil you will also find in James Joyce’s story The Cat and the Devil, probably an apocryphal narrative from France which he rewrote for his grandson. In it, the Devil promises the mayor of Beaugency to build, without costs, a bridge over the river. However on one condition: the soul of the first one to cross that bridge would belong to him.
The mayor tricked the Devil, as once did that man in Bergman’s The 7th Seal who overturned the chessboard on which he was playing a match with the Evil One. This in the hope that He would forget about his family who would in the mean time be fleeing.
The Devil laughed sneeringly, showing of his splendid memory by agonizingly slowly putting the pieces back on the board in precisely their former position. In the time it takes Him to do this, in their covered wagon the man’s family is disappearing on the horizon behind which the Devil can no longer reach them.
In Joyce’s story the mayor of Beaugency takes a cat on his arm. “The animal looked at the mayor, as cats in the town of Beaugency had the right to look at the mayor.” When the cat had enough of observing his mayor, it began to play with the man’s chain but the mayor had now come at the bridge’s end. “He put the cat down on it, and before anyone knew what was happening, he threw – splash! – a whole bucket of water over the cat.” The beast, like a hare, ran across the bridge toward Devil and jumped into His arms..
Call it with Goethe: des Pudels Kern – the pointe of the story.
So now I feed my little loves who will soon have to find their place in this wide, wide world. Buzzard Food…
Every day I begin to feel a little bit more like a devil. I also have the impression that those two have a vague suspicion of this. However, this may be a projection from a very bad conscience.
First however, I still need to drive them out of my, I mean: their garden shed, which in itself requires a devilish plan.
Sierksma, La Roche 31.7/2016