I’m sure most of you would have seen the news of Orca whale mom’s tour of grief. Her ordeal highlighted the devastation humans cause the nature, and similar to that, Italo Calvino’s The Garden of Stubborn Cats is a story which emphasizes that we should keep our human nature in check.
The city of cats and the city of men exist one inside the other, but they are not the same city. Few cats recall the time when there was no distinction: the streets and squares of men were also streets and squares of cats, and the lawns, courtyard, balconies, and fountains; you lived in a broad and various space. But for several generations now domestic felines have been prisoners of an inhabitable city; the streets are uninterruptedly overrun by the mortal traffic of cat-crushing automobiles; in every square foot of terrain where once a garden extended or a vacant lot or the ruins of an old demolition, now condominiums loom up, welfare housing, brand-new skyscrapers; every entrance is crammed with parked cars; the courtyards, one by one, have been roofed by reinforced concrete and transformed into garages and movie houses or storerooms or workshops.
And so Italo Calvino goes on detailing the concrete jungle humans have created where Marcovaldo, the story’s protagonist lives. During his lunch break, Marcovaldo goes exploring the city of cats with a tabby he has befriended, and this tabby takes Marcovaldo to places he has never been. On one particular day, the tabby takes Marcovaldo to the great Biarritz Restaurant where customers can pick the trout they want to be sautéed from a little fish tank. Marcovaldo, feeling adventurous, decides to steal a trout, but when Marcovaldo least expects, the tabby snatches the trout he had stolen from right under his nose!
Marcovaldo ends up chasing the tabby who escapes with his stolen fish, and the tabby seeks refuge in an old Marchesa’s garden. This Marchesa’s garden is the only place in the city that is unspoiled by the human touch. The Marchesa’s neighbors say developers have offered her millions and millions for her land and threatened her when their offers weren’t accepted, but no one could get her to sell her land! Some think it is because of her love for animals, however, when Marcovaldo speaks with the Marchesa, we finally realize why she has been keeping the land.
I’m not a big fan of Italo Calvino’s writing, so this story is not one of my favorites in the collection. However, it shows how selfish humans can be, and that mother nature won’t go down without a fight when the time comes…