Ernst Junger’s cat

Edit after the fact: We went with Circe.  Largely because I spent the first few nights sleeping on the floor with her to comfort her – an endpoint akin to the power of Circe’s wand to turn men to animals.

My wife and I adopted a Siamese kitten today and in the week before we take her home we have to find her a name.  I’d long planned on Tristram or Toby Shandy (which would’ve nicely echoed Saki’s Tobermory) but my wife’s rigid gendering won’t permit it so I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon searching for alternatives.  This led – as all things do – to books with cats and writers with cats and ultimately writers with Siamese cats.  They were apparently very popular in the 1930s-1950s so quite a few writers of the period – Jean Cocteau especially, it seems – owned the breed.

Very young disciple with Siamese cat.  Source:

I then remembered the above picture of Ernst Junger with a cat – and that I’d been curious in the past to figure out the name of his pet cats.  I found it featured a Siamese and after a bit of creative German googling I dug out this lovely blog entry.  The passage below – from Strahlungen II – unfortunately didn’t include a page citation and it would take me a few days to get the relevant volume anyway so here’s what I’ve got on his cat “Prinzessin Li-Ping:”

“The little thing is beige-coloured; head, tail, and legs are as if smoked with Chinese ink.  There is a graceful exquisiteness in her, Far Eastern suppleness with suggestions of Bamboo, Silk, and Opium.”

Das Tierchen ist beigefarben; Kopf, Schwanz und Beine sind wie mit chinesischer Tusche angeraucht. Es steckt grazile Erlesenheit in ihr, fernöstliche Geschmeidigkeit mit Anklängen von Bambus, Seide, Opium

It’s a good description of ours as well but I doubt it will win me the name.

Whatever you have read is only a name

From Chhandogya Upanishad (7.1-3) in Swami Nikhilananda’s translation:


Narada approached Sanatkumara [as a pupil] and said: “Venerable Sir, please teach me.”

Sanatkumara said to him: “Please tell me what you already know.  Then I shall tell you what is beyond.”


Narada said: “Venerable Sir, I know the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Atharva-Veda as the fourth, the epics and ancient lore as the fifth, the Veda of the Vedas (i.e. grammar), the rules of the sacrifices by which the Manes are gratified, the science of numbers, the science of portents, the science of time, logic, ethics, etymology, Brahma-vidya (i.e. the science of pronunciation, ceremonials, prosody, etc.), the science of elemental spirits, the science of weapons, astronomy, the science of serpents, and the fine arts.  All that I know, Venerable Sir.


“But, venerable Sir, with all that I know world only; I do not know the Self.  I have heard from men like you that he who knows the Self overcomes sorrow.  I am on afflicted with sorrow.  Do you, venerable Sir, help me to cross over the the other side of sorrow.”

Sanatkumara said to him: “Whatever you have read is only a name.”

Yes, I think that the novel leads readers to vanity and egoism

From Buddha and Personality in v. 2 of Conversations between Borges and Osvaldo Ferrari:

Ferrari: Of course, you also indicated in that essay that the Western novel prefers ‘the flavour of souls’, in Proust and in other novelists.  And in Buddhism the negation of that flavour of souls, of that individuality of souls.

Borges: Yes, I think that the novel leads readers to vanity and egoism.  Novels talk about a single person and the features that distinguish them from other people, which encourages the reader to try and be a specific person and to have features that distinguish them from other people.  So that reading a novel indirectly promotes egoism and vanity and trying to be interesting.  Which is what happens with all young people.  When I was young, I was purposefully unhappy, because I wanted to be, well, Hamlet, or Byron, or Poe, or Baudelaire, or a character in a Russian novel.  On the other hand, now I try to seek calm, and not think about the personality, well, of a writer called Borges, who lived, let’s say, in the twentieth century (laughs), although he was born in the nineteenth.  I try t o forget those pedantic circumstance, no?  I try to live calmly, forgetting that character who is my companion.

I still feel a very great satisfaction when I find myself alone in a street

From Iris Origo’s Leopardi: A Study in Solitude (pg. 5)- recounting the life of the poet’s father.  I haven’t looked into whether the elder Leopardi’s Memoirs were ever published.

Two years later, when barely eighteen, he assumed, as head of the family, the complete management of the whole property – yet he was still forbidden by his mother to go out of the house, unless accompanied by his preceptor.  This restriction, although not unusual in families such as his, was particularly galling to Monaldo.  “To this day,” he wrote in his Memoirs, “although I am the father of twelve children (living and dead), a magistrate of the city, and forty-eight years of age, I still feel a very great satisfaction when I find myself alone in a street, without a tutor by my side.”