It is my belief that “the cat” is one of the great artistic subjects (for instance, name a novel in which a cat does not appear, I’ll wait), another is grief, but the two are not often analyzed together and at once.
NPR reported on Tuesday that the French conceptual artist Sophie Calle has compiled a 37-track album of distinct artists each interpreting what it means to pay homage to the memory of Calle’s cat, Souris, who died in 2014. The finished project, Souris Calle (streaming on Spotify right now), begins with a message from Bono, perhaps his best work ever. “Souris” means “mouse” in French.
Calle told Artnet back in June, “When you say you’re sad about the cat, it’s a bit obscene for people. You can’t say that. I mean, if I say my mother or my father is dead, everyone tells me ‘Oh, poor thing, she lost her mother, oh, poor thing, she lost her father,’ but if we say that about our cat, we seem ridiculous. It makes me laugh, when for me, in my daily life, it was almost more violent, because I lived with my cat. I didn’t live with my parents.”
Ten of the featured artists reportedly knew Souris personally, and part of the fun for me is figuring out which. Maybe not Pharrell Williams, whose instrumental track is titled “A Cat Named Mouse.” Laurie Anderson’s piece is also called “A Cat Named Mouse” and it is very silly and good: “A cat named mouse / is chasing himself around your house / He’ll never catch up / He’ll always fail / to close his mouth / around his tail.” And so on.
Of the ones I’ve listened to so far, my favorite is The National’s contribution, a song called “Le violin blanc de Monsieur Souris” which begins, most soulfully, “Sophie, I’m sorry about your cat.” Lou Doillon’s number sounds sad, which is appropriate, but that’s about it.
All in all, about the most charming album I have ever mostly listened to.