The noble prize winning author Doris Lessing was influenced by her deep relationships with cats. In An Old Woman and Her Cat (1972) the main character Hetty, poor, widowed and abandoned by her children finds her only comfort in her faithful tomcat. Both outcasts of society, Hetty dies of exposure while trying to hide from the authorities that want to commit her to an old folk’s home. Her cat is caught and put to sleep. A neat society has disposed of its non-conformists.
Doris Lessing not only used cats in her fiction, but she also documented the lives of her own feline companions. On Cats (2002) consists of a collection of stories, Particularly Cats and Rufus the Survivor, and the memoir, The Old Age of El Magnifico wherein Lessing observes and offers her adept insights into the actions of her felines. Sometimes ruthless in her telling of the fates of unlucky cats, the book is likewise filled with emotion at the eternal beauty of the cat. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2008, she stated, “The cat I communicated with best was El Magnifico. He was such a clever cat. We used to have sessions when we tried to be on each other’s level….”
FOR FURTHER READING:
Doris Lessing, On Cats
To read excerpts from On Cats click here.
Doris Lessing, Stories (Contains Old Woman and her Cat)
Doris Lessing, The Old Age of El Magnifico