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Literature / Felidae

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A novel of cats and murder.

Felidae is a 1989 crime fiction novel by the German-Turkish writer Akif Pirinçci. Francis is a cat who has moved with his owner to a city in Germany. There, he comes across a mystery involving the murders of several neighborhood cats.

There are eight books in the Felidae series: Felidae, Felidae II (also known as Felidae on the Road' or Francis), Cave Canem, Das Duell, Salve Roma!, Schandtat, Felipolis, and Göttergleich. Only Felidae, Felidae II, and Felidae V: Salve Roma! have been officially translated into English. Also there are Russian translations of first and fourth book.

In 1994, the first book was infamously adapted into a German animated film named Felidae. It's gained a notoriety because violent xenofiction novels are seldom adaptated into film (never mind animated film).

Felidae provides examples of:

  • All Dogs Are Purebred: In an extremely rare cat case, most of the cats are explicitly described as being of one particular breed or another (exceptions being Francis and Joker). Strangely, "European Shorthair" seems to be used as a synonym for "Domestic Shorthair/Longhair" (basically cats of mixed ancestry, also called "moggies"), despite the European Shorthair being a recognized breed. This is justified by "Cat Breeding Marches On" as in the late 80s to early 90s, when the first books were published, this usage was fairly common, and then the later books just rolled with it. Breed appearances can be hinted in the film adaption, but the art style makes some of them rather ambiguous:
    • Bluebeard is a Maine Coon, though his tail has been removed, which makes him look more like a Manx. He also possesses short fur in the film.
    • Felicity is a Russian Blue, though in the movie she possesses longer fur.
    • Isaiah is a Persian.
    • Kong is an enormous Himalayan, also known as a Colorpoint Persian.
    • The Hermanns are Oriental Shorthairs, though they are both inbred mutants and thus barely recognizable.
    • Pascal is a Havana Brown, though his movie appearance bears next to no resemblance to the breed. He fits the bill slightly better as a young cat, though.
    • As for Francis, a dream sequence in the second book suggests he is a European Shorthair (though this is questionable, as his coloration was very odd in the dream), and being mistaken for a wildcat hints that he's probably a gray or brown tabby, rather than the bicolor shown in the movie.
    • Joker may be any large long-haired breed, as he appears/is described as being huge, long-haired, and white.
    • Nhozemptekh had the body shape and face of an Oriental Shorthair and some of the color-pointing and features of an Abyssinian, thought to be the one of the oldest domestic cat breeds.
  • Animal Talk:
    • The cats can communicate with each other and understand humans. Humans, however, can't understand them, and are completely oblivious to the murder mystery scenario. Claudandus was actually able to talk to Preterius by imitating human language, though.
    • Ambrosious in the second book claims to be able to speak to the animals of the woods, though it's unclear if he's being truthful or merely making it up. A mouse caught shortly thereafter reveals that he can talk in the cats' language.
    • Francis's conversations with the wildcat tribe and the lynx reveal that all felines (at least smaller felines) speak the same language (which makes sense, seeing as how most felines use extremely similar vocalizations and body language).
    • Dogs seems to share the language, as Francis has no problem understanding anyone from the third book.
    • Further cemented in Salve Roma! when Francis travels to Rome. Aside from an occasional region-specific phrase, feline language is the same the world over, so Francis has no trouble communicating with the local cats.
      • Strangely averted with Sancta though, who only speaks in Latin so Francis has to constantly translate in his head and for the reader.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Francis finds Preterius's journal from when he first started his project in the house to the last moments before Claudandus ripped his throat open, with a full chapter made up of its contents. It started out normally enough, with Preterius seeming genuinely determined to help all of mankind with his research, though even at the start, showed signs of having a chip on his shoulder towards the upper echelons of the German scientific community. But failure after failure, losing funding and assistants, growing paranoia and hostility towards those he thought were out to get him and falling into alcoholism left him as a deranged, pitiful excuse of a human being with nothing to show for his work but the blood of countless cats on his hands.
  • Author Tract: It's pretty clear the author is a big fan of cats and his hatred towards people misstreating them. While not so much present in the first book (save for all the animal testing), the second one is full of examples: such as the company of the merciful (a society of cats consisting entirely of those thrown out by humans for being undesirable) and every one of Francis interactions with the Wildcats. (of which the author even gives a long rant in his notes on how misunderstood they where and how humans among other things hunted them for sport just because they could).
    • Even in the book there is a segment where Francis at first tries a theory that the wildcats might also be responsible for all the killing. Only for Ambrosius to start chastening him on how such a theory is ridiculous and that such a pride and noble community with such a history of violence against them would never commit such an act. (Something that Francis himself also agrees on once Alcina is murdered.
    • Book three is a big middle finger to the The Yugoslav Wars and the concept of Military Animals in general.
    • Book four also attacks the fur trade industry as well as the entire industry surrounding pets.
    • Book five meanwhile is basically just Akif salivating over the beauty of Rome. The entire thing feeling like a tourism advert in novel form and is one of the few to avert having a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The first book/movie is pretty much the only one to lack one.
    • Book two ends with Francis finally back home. But both the wildcats and Eight leave to an uncertain future that could just have been as bad as their current one, and Ambrosius ends up paying for his love of the wild with his life.
    • Book three is even worse with a borderline Downer Ending. Hector killed while trying to fight Amebius, Francis is heavily wounded and left for dead, he is stil hunted by both the cat and dog communities and a war between them is just a question of time. The only thing that stops it from being a Downer Ending is the fact that the next book ignores it outright.
    • Book 4 goes back to form with Maximillian no longer able to fulfill his evil plan. But Max ends up committing a Suicide by Cop. Fabulous takes her own life with him and Adrian (just like the rest of the lab-cats still has no idea how long he will live.
  • Cat Stereotype: Felicity is a pampered and sweet pet Russian Blue.
  • Changing of the Guard: The later books start to shift the focus more and more onto Francis' son, Junior. While he never leaves the books completely, the 7th book is told almost entirely from Junior's perspective.
  • Comic-Book Time: All the books take place in the time of the writing and Francis describes himself as "old and withered" by the third book (published in 1999, 10 years after the first). Yet he is still alive and well by the time of the latest book (2012).
  • Death of a Child:
    • Dams and their kittens die all over the place.
    • In the original novel, Francis has a nightmare where Deep Purple pulls a kitten out of his torn, bleeding throat, throws it against the wall, pulls out another kitten which bursts like a red paint balloon, and proceeds to splatter more kittens from his throat.
  • A Degree in Useless: Gustav is an Egyptologist, can't find a job, and no one wants to buy his books, so he has to write pornography for cheap magazines to make a living. In later books, he becomes more successful.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The first book does this often, probably due to translation.
  • Detective Animal: Francis, given that it's half the premise of the book. He's a cat trying to investigate murders in his new city.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Claudandus's plans to create a race of "genetically perfect" cats while murdering those he considers to be inferior. Sound familiar?
    • In one dream Francis sees God/The Übermensch, who calls himself "Felidae," meaning all of catkind, as gold/blonde-haired and lapis/blue eyed.
    • The mysterious Felidae cats are essentially a stand-in for "Aryans".
    • Dr. Preterius' horrific experiments on the cats bear more than a passing resemblance to those carried out on humans by Josef Mengele.
    • The concept of "Felidae" seems close to Nietzsche's "Ubermensch" (Super-Man).
    • The wildcats in the second book are described as noble savages that lives in tribes and with a history of persecution. Again, sound familiar?
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: For some strange reason, the first book is the only one that is entirely crime fiction, while the rest of the books have only a few elements of crime fiction (for example, the second one is an adventure story with hints of crime fiction).
  • Fantasy Counterpart Religion: The cats are implied to have their own version of Christianity in the first and second book. Quietly dropped as the series progressed though.
  • First-Person Smartass: Francis narrates the books, making at times very snarky comments about the things happening, and especially about the habits of his owner. Occasionally he crosses over to Nostalgic Narrator as if he were telling the story sometime in the future but it's never specified.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: the second book revels in it:
    • The wildcats were trying to survive in an environment completely foreign to them. Which led them towards a path of hatred for humans and their "servants". In the end they have a collective My God, What Have I Done? moment and leave the area in favor of somewhere devoid of humans.
    • Ambrosius just wanted to help his cousins and paid for it with his life.
    • The Black Knight was just as much of a victim as the other murdered.
    • Diana/The hunter was just trying to save the native life from the wildcats. And couldn't tell Francis apart from them.
    • Hell, the only unquestionably good characters besides Francis himself would be Eight and the company of the merciful. And the former eventually leaves when he realizes that his efforts serve no purpose in the grand scheme of things. While the later did try to kill Francis when they first met him in order to preserve their secret and are heavily implied to brainwash their members.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Max in the fourth book is a half-human, half-cat hybrid! Created through the power of genetic enginering. The author also makes it clear in his notes that stuff like this is actually impossible in real life and is one of the early signs that the books are starting to embrace more fantastic elements.
  • Heaven: Known a the eternal hunting grounds by the cats. Francis gets a look at the feline heaven after being shot at the end of the second book. He's saved from the brink of death before the stay becomes permanent.
  • Last of His Kind: Eight the lynx. He was part of a group brought from Canada to Germany to help boost the native population, but with their normal food source no longer available to them, the group quickly dwindled from starvation and being shot after they attacked livestock in desperation. It's possible that a few of them survived, but Eight has no clue where they are and has resigned himself to being alone for the rest of his life.
  • Mature Animal Story: Felidae is a serious Film Noir crime novel series starring normal domestic cats.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Felicity means "great happiness".
    • Kong is, well, gigantic. Same for Rhodos and Goliath from the second book.
    • Claudandus is the Latin for "he who must be closed". Closing him - literally - was what Preterius was trying to do.
  • The Mole: Adrian from the fifth book is actually in league with the murderer. Getting in close to Francis in order to throw him off the track.
  • No Ending: Book 3 simply ends with Francis left for dead by the villan and him formulating a plan in his head to fix everything that happened in the book. The next one then picks up a few months later like nothing has happened.
  • Panthera Awesome: Eight from book two is a Canadian lynx. Not really so big as most examples of this trope, but still much larger than most of the characters.
  • Pet the Dog: Interestingly, every human character is shown to have (or have had) good qualities. Even Preterius was somewhat kind to his test subjects (at least in the book - it's not really shown in the movie) before his project started falling apart around him. One of the few exceptions would be Saffron's owner, from book two, who took delight in starving and torturing his cats - Saffron's brother died of dehydration thanks to him. Francesca also fails to get any such moments, but she's not evil per se - just really domineering, pushy, and a hypocrite.
  • Posthumous Character:
    • Dr. Preterius, especially in the book.
    • Claudandus until you find out he's not only alive, but also the Big Bad.
    • Crazy Hugo (aka the Black Knight) and his mastiff from the second book. Thanks to Ambrosius, many characters believe they might still be alive.
  • Purple Prose: Francis feels the need to describe everything, and we mean everything in graphic detail. In the first book he went on for about five paragraphs about what his owner feeds him. The one time that the book entirely eschews the Purple Prose is Felicity's death. It's short, sharp, simple - and a stab to the heart. Exaggerated whenever Francis mates with someone.
  • The Rival: With a name that literally translates too "The Duell", it's no surprise that a major plot point in the fourth book is how Francis has to defend his reputation agianst a new and younger detecvtive by the name of Adrian.
  • Satellite Love Interest:
    • Alcina from book two. She meets Francis only once, during which they mate, but Francis apparently loved her very much and is heartbroken when he finds she's been murdered. Felicity might count as well, as her part is extremely similar (sans the mating), but between the two Felicity was much friendlier.
    • It should be noted that cats, by nature, typically aren't very romantic (mating in both book and film is a pretty casual affair), but a few characters do show signs of real love for a favorite mate. Francis himself is even disgusted by the idea of monogamy.
  • Secret-Keeper:
    • Joker. He's well aware of the truth behind Preterius and his experiments, that Claudandus is alive, responsible for the murders, the reasons behind them and his other identity. He even willing accepts dying at the teeth of Claudandus to keep the secret safe when Francis starts closing in on him.
    • In book two, this role is filled by Ambrosius, who is fully aware that the Wild Ones are the murderers. He even aids them by pretending to be the Black Knight and drawing suspicion away from them.
  • Series Continuity Error: A big deal is made in the fifth book about how cats can't talk to humans even if they wanted to due to the lack of human vocal cords. Completely ignoring that Claudandus had talked to Preterius in the first book by "mowing his lips like that of a human". The implication being (according to Francis) that it's instead forbidden due to their religion.
  • Shown Their Work: The author knows quite a bit about cats. This is shown not only in the books themselves, but in notes supplied at the back of the books to explain in detail some aspects of feline behavior and biology that are only given passing mention in the main story. He also has a good understanding of Mendelian genetics, one of the major elements of the plot. Also, back-breeding is a real phenomenon.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: In the first book, Francis delivers one to Claudandus/Pascal, during the latter's Motive Rant.
    Francis: You're the one who's really a human being! You think just like they do! You act just like they do! You only want to repeat all the misery they have brought to the world. You're dreaming not of real change but of establishing a new dictatorship paid for with hundreds and thousands of dead from your own ranks. And tell me what kind of a role you've thought up for the other animals species in your oh-so-very-wonderful never-never land? Come on, answer me!
  • Snap Back: The books aren't exactly heavy on continuity, but the transition between book 3 and 4 is remarkable. To summarize: Hector is killed, while Francis is left for dead thanks to the main villan. He is stil marked for death by pretty much every cat/dog in the area and a war between the two factions is still only a matter of time. Cue Das Duell, which picks up a few months afterwards with no reference whatsoever to the events of the previous book.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After mating with Sancta in the fifth book, Francis notes how she was in the highest point of fertility and would most likely become pregnant from their encounter (which turns into one of Francis' biggest motivations for solving the case and survivng). Come book six where she has moved with him back to Germany, these hypothetical kittens are never seen. (It's very unlikely he would just have left them in Italy considering all the flack Junior gave him for abandoning him and his mother.)
    • The books' lack of continuity leads to a lot of these actually. Adrian and the rest of the labcats are also never seen again despite being major characters in the fourth book.
    • Averted with Kong though, despite being absent in the second and third books (and you would think he would feature there as it deals with local politics where he is a major player). He is a minor character in the fourth where Blueberad calls in a favor from him to help Francis.
  • Walking Disaster Area: Almost everytime Francis finds himself in some unfamiliar territory, cats always end up dying. He's this to the females he meets as well. Almost every female he meets gets killed, with the exception of four.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye:
    • Felicity and Joker were only seen alive in one scene each.
    • Francis has Mandrake (named Alcina in English, who's only alive in one scene before we learned her fate.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds:
    • Claudandus had only developed his insane plan after being tortured by Preterius. The "Destroyer of Worlds" part is much more present here than the "Woobie" part though. Also, this trope is more present in the book than in the movie.
    • The second book gives us the wildcat tribe. Being brought into strange territory where they found it almost impossible to survive is what fueled the rage towards humans and domestic creatures alike, and eventually what led to the murders. As with Claudandus above, this is an arguable case.
  • Xenofiction: The cats can talk to one another but are largely treated as ordinary cats living in Germany.
  • You Are Number 6: Eight from the second book.