As a serious-minded student at the University of Chicago, Hartmut von Hentig became the unwilling caretaker of Poffâa gray, indistinctly striped alley catâas part of a housesitting arrangement.
"I confess: I did not like cats before Poff was put into my care. ... And in the beginning Poff represented a duty, no more and no less."
Poff proves to be more than a duty and a disruption; he is a teacher with an important lesson: that loving and caring for another is the way out of loneliness.
Like most of us, Hentig hadn't realized the extent of his loneliness until Poff entered his life. Because of this, his story is all the more poignant and familiar.
JOEL AGEE is the author of Twelve Years: An American Boyhood in East Germany. His essays and fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, and The New York Times Book Review, and he is the translator of The Ballad of Typhoid Mary by J.F. Federspiel. Mr. Agee lives in Brooklyn, New York and is presently at work on a novel.
HARTMUT VON HENTIG was born in Germany in 1925. Poff the Cat is based on his own experiences as a graduate student of ancient languages at the University of Chicago. An author and theorist in the field of education, he established the Department of Education, Philosophy, and Psychology at the University of Bielefeld, West Germany.