Cats at the British Library

From now until March 17 2019, visitors to the British Library (Located conveniently near Kings Cross Station) can enjoy a small exhibition dedicated to our small and dear feline friends in literature. 

The British Library is a wonderful venue, somehow simultaneously buzzing with activity yet remaining peaceful and soothing in an area of town famous more for wizardry than quietude.  

I visited this week to see the exhibition and wanted to share a few favourite bits. The Library doesn't permit guests to take photos of exhibitions, so it's not possible to share any images of the exhibition itself, but here are some of personal highlights from the collection: 

'Cat in an Empty Apartment' by Wislawa Szymborska

My favourite piece featured in the exhibition is a poem. It describes a cat alone in an apartment after its owner has died and it conveys a sense of bewildered and quiet loss as the cat searches the apartment for an absent and never-to-return friend. It is referred to as an elegy in the exhibition notes as it was composed after the writer had lost her longterm partner and reflects her own feelings of loss.

'Cat in an Empty Apartment' is a touching poem and it features in the book 'Poems new and Collected,' published in 1991.

Szymborska is a famed writer and won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1996. 

The Price by Neil Gaiman

A short story by Neil Gaiman (a gentleman who likely needs no introduction) about a mysterious Black Cat who arrives at his home and plays a secret but important role in the house. 

I've been unable to locate the short story for purchase online, but a lovely animatic was created and is available publicly online: 

Cat out of Hell by Lynne Truss

 This isn't a title I'm familiar with, but it's going on my wish list for Christmas! A retired librarian uncovering a world of immortal talking cats has a certain Sabrina/Salem quality to it which I'm sure I'll enjoy - part of the experience of these exhibits is uncovering new finds after all!  


Another lovely part of visiting an exhibition like this is remembering old favourites! Blacksad is a film-noir style graphic novel about a detective, a dame, and a murder (or two), beautifully illustrated with anthropomorphic feline characters by Juanjo Guarnido and written by Juan Díaz Canales.

By no means an exhaustive list of the collection on display, these four are the titles I had earmarked as tales to highlight, as they aren't the usual titles that come up when people talk about books that feature cats. Of course, the usual suspects can be found on display: Possum's Book of Practical Cats and the eponymous Dinah and Cheshire Cat from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland made their appearance as well! 

The relationship between writers and cats has been well observed over time and the exhibition at the British Library highlights some of the charming works that this special relationship between writer and feline muse has produced.

Events and Talks

There are quite a number of events and talks associated with this exhibition, here's the two that caught my eye the most:

Monday December 3: Enjoy a chat with Judith Kerr, author of the Mog series and The Tiger who came to tea (and more):

Monday December 10: Enjoy a talk from the curator (Free):

More events and talks here:

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