The first novel by American author Russell Hoban. Published in 1958, this fable-like children's book has polarised the reading public since its release, with some claiming that it is a nihilistic and pointless book, too dark for any child reader, while others consider it one of the great works of modern philosophy.
This books tells the story of a wind-up toy mouse and his son, who find themselves homeless and destitute upon a rubbish dump. They are forced to work as clockwork slaves for Manny Rat, until they manage to escape. Thus they set out on a meandering journey in search of their own territory, all the while trying to avoid the revengeful Manny Rat, and gleaning what wisdom they can from the satiricalcollection of philosophers with whom they cross paths.
The Mouse and His Child is a profound examination of existentialist philosophy, best captured by the child-mouse's determination to see "the last visible dog." Rusting away at the bottom of a pond, his feet ensnared by mud, he finds himself staring at the disintegrating label of a dog-food can. The label features the picture of a chef-dog holding a tray upon which is a can of dog-food, also featuring a chef-dog holding a tray, and so on and so on, until the image is merely a dot on a slightly-larger-than-a-dot can. Even the ending of the book, which in many ways presents itself as the quintessential happy ending, is a bittersweet examination of revenge and one-upmanship and its fleeting reward.