BOOKS: Felidae

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1993:

Felidae, by Akif Pirincci. 1993. 290 pages,
paperback, $19.00 ($24.00 Canadian). Villard Books
(a division of Random House), 201 East 50th St., New
York, NY 10022.
Felidae is a murder/detective story told from a
cat’s viewpoint. Francis has just moved into a new neigh-
borhood with his owner, and immediately begins finding
the corpses of other cats. Being an intelligent feline with a
taste for puzzle-solving, he embarks on his investigations
to find out who or what is dispatching the neighborhood
cats in such a gruesome manner.

If all this sounds just a bit precious, the narrative
quickly dispells any hints of this becoming an anthropo-
morphic piece of fluff. It’s more a cross between Stephen
King and Agatha Christie, and not a pleasant read, since
animal torture and vivisection are described in detail.
The clever Francis inevitably tracks down the
killer, indulging in the requisite sex and violence scenes
without which a mystery would be incomplete. Thus
Felidae is an essentially mainstream story, even with the
odd twist of having a feline cast, in a world where humans
figure at best as can-openers and at worst as maniacal tor-
turers. Yet there is considerably more going on beneath
the surface. Turkish-born author Akif Pirincci is now a
German citizen. As newly resurgent German neo-Nazis
vent against ethnic Turks the hatred they once reserved for
Jews, Pirincci confronts the violence with an allegory
involving Nazism, eugenics, and the attempt to create a
master race. Philosophical discussion of breeding programs
are the real heart of Felidae. Pascal, Francis’ brilliant but
twisted nemesis, has developed his own complex eugenics
program in an attempt to create a super-cat who will eventu-
ally take over the world, succeeding mankind and placing
other animals under subjugation. Pirincci depicts the quest
to create a master race, of any species, as a quest to turn
back the clock to a mythical time when genetic strains were
powerful and undiluted (in complete disregard of evolution,
which indicates we all came from common ancestors).
Francis’ world is a sad, dark, dirty place, filled
with terror, pain, and loss, much of which occurs through
the degeneracy and irresponsibility not only of the human
race, but of his own as well. There is no such thing as cul-
ture, only the intercourse of pathetic souls tenuously linked
by economics or transient passion; there are no leaders
except the demonically crazed; there is no vision except
that of rationalized mass murder and utter control by a dic-
tator. Small wonder, then, that the inahbitants yearn for
an idyllic past. As Hitler yearned for the world of
Siegfried, Pascal yearns for the Egyptian strain of
Felidae, the cats who were gods.
It is a truism that those who forget the past are
doomed to repeat it. Eugenics programs have not been
abandoned, only restructured to take more subtle forms,
claiming to reflect economic science now rather than
genetics. Collective longing for the simplicity and securi-
ty of a past that never existed continues to warp our social
and political consciousness, hampering our progress much
as it hampers Pirincci’s cats, threatening us with eventual
regression into Nietzche’s feral and consciousless race.
This is a rather complex revelation to be packed
into a mainstream mystery, and it is fair to wonder if
Pirincci himself meant it in quite this way. Still, for all
their sophistication and clever dialog, these cats remain
catty enough to provide an uncanny reflection of our own
impoverished souls.
––Pamela Kemp
[Pamela Kemp is a social worker in Victoria, British
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