| TOKYO, April 11
TOKYO, April 11 Elise is a single mother whose
only child is killed in a sudden freak accident. Distraught, she
at first wants to join her son - but then realises she must stay
alive to care for his beloved cat, which gradually draws her
back into life.
"The Cat", by award-winning Israeli-born author Edeet Ravel,
got its start from the July 2011 news that a gunman had opened
fire at a youth camp on a Norwegian holiday island, killing 77
people, setting off a compulsion that had her writing so rapidly
she completed a draft of the book in six weeks.
Ravel spoke with Reuters about her writing, loss and why she
chose a cat to help her heroine back to life.
Q: What got this book started?
A: I began writing the book on July 23, 2011, a day that I
remember very well because it was the day after the horrific
attack in Norway. I read about the terrible tragedy and I
thought of the parents. Many writers try to understand these
horrific events by writing about the event itself - the
violence, the perpetrators, the victims - but I turned my
attention to the bereaved parents, and friends and relatives,
because their lives can never be the same, and I began writing
With this novel, even though it was extremely hard to write
- in fact, it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my writing
career - I had at the same time a compulsion to tell Elise's
story. That was really unlike anything I'd ever experienced
before. I simply couldn't stop writing. I'd go to bed scratching
sentences in the dark as I fell asleep. I woke up with sentences
ready to go and I'd have to rush to the computer to get it all
down before doing anything else. I had to leave my exercise
class to scribble sentences in the margin of the schedule. Like
the time that I left a bar mitzvah in the middle and I went to
the ladies' room and I began scribbling on the bar mitzvah
program. It was going on constantly for about six weeks, until
the first draft was finished.
Q: Why was there such a compulsion?
A: I think it was something that had been on my mind for a
very long time because I was close to two people who lost
children, and because as a parent, like all parents, I live
daily with my inability to protect my child from harm, try as I
may. So it's a very emotional topic and probably because it was
so difficult to write I pushed it away and tried not to write
it. I think there was a build-up. There will always be things we
can't control with our children, and yet the loss of a child is
unimaginable - except that a parent lives with that possibility
every minute of every day, from the minute our child is born.
Q: What was your relationship with Elise through this intense
A: Elise took over the novel. I always have an entire world
set up in my mind before I begin writing, but even more so in
this case. It can take years but in the case of "The Cat", it
was almost instantaneous. I knew who Elise was, I knew where she
lived, I knew her story and her son's story, where she came from
and what she felt about everything. So I would say that this was
a case where the story led the way and I followed.
Q: She came into your head fully developed?
A: Yes. It must have happened overnight because I read about
the events and I went to sleep. I think I was thinking about
what had happened all night. When I woke up, I just wrote on my
computer screen "The Cat".
Q: When you were living so closely and intensely with that
world, was that hard for you?
A: Yes. During the time that I was writing, I can't remember
what else I was doing. The novel took over my life and I was
writing every free minute that I had, and it was very emotional.
It was difficult. I was extremely involved in the story and I
felt that I was not inventing events. In one sense I was
creating a fictional world, but in another sense I was writing
about something so real that happens, sadly, to so many people.
Q: Why a cat, why not a dog?
A: I think that she would not have forgotten, even for a few
minutes, that she had a dog to take care of. When she comes home
from the hospital, she actually has forgotten that there's a cat
in the house. Of course, cats can hide away in a corner and be
very quiet and unnoticeable, they can blend in.
That beloved creature is the key to her survival, and the
cat represents both the spiritual dimension that keeps her alive
but also, I think, a more primal energy or instinct that gives
us the energy to go on after a loss like that... I was thinking
in terms of both that instinct and the spiritual dimension.
Q: Cats give you more space in general.
A: Yes. A dog can actually communicate more directly. Many
dogs have that ability to communicate with humans, but with the
cat there's more guesswork involved ... (It's) a mirror of her
isolation, the mystery and the inability to understand what has
happened to her.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies, editing by Paul Casciato)