To protect itself, Japan adopts an isolationist policy so extreme that language is often self-policed to exclude words with foreign origins. This is the ambiguous future in which The Emissary finds its subject, Yoshiro, and his great-grandson, Mumei.
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But even more has changed than that—the youth are fragile, sickly, and delicate, while the elderly overpopulate, pulling their offspring and their progeny through as they become older and older themselves. Yoshiro worries and dotes on his charge, often racked with guilt, which he associates as an emotion of his generation. Mumei, on the other hand, is an optimistic and charming force of hope. The style in which Tawada explores this juxtaposition is not unlike her previous novels, most notably Memoirs of a Polar Bear.
Her narrators weave between past and present, their internal musings and the external setting they inhabit. In one striking passage, Mumei vividly describes functioning as an octopus, and it is oddly relatable despite its absurdity.
On Yoko Tawada’s The Emissary - The Kenyon Review
Tawada expertly catches the feeling of trances—the normalization of adhering to laws that have no precedent for enforcement, or the daze of simple everyday routines. Her world-building is based on detailed descriptions that border on newspaper-variety mundanity, and in contrast her characters are described with vibrant vignettes of feelings and flashbacks while remaining vague as to their inspirations.
The blend feels like a mess of the subconscious and conscious, each having important things to say to complement and strengthen the other. A master of convincing contradiction and amusing wit, Yoko Tawada has produced a novel with bits of humor quietly dominating like weeds in a barren posturban world. Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada.
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Home March March Book Reviews. Yoko Tawada. Margaret Mitsutani. Jacky Tideman Oklahoma City. Tawada has received a number of awards in Germany and Japan, but there is great significance in her winning this prestigious National Book Award in the newly-founded category of Translated Literature. In recent years, Ms.
By receiving this award, there is a possibility that such international movement of translation will be accelerated. When speaking of literature in Japanese, Haruki Murakami has been in the spotlight as a bestselling author, but I hope that this will be an opportunity for people to know that there are authors like Ms.
Tawada who is completely different and realize the depth of literature in Japanese. Prior to this award, Tawada also received the Japan Foundation Award for her contributions in promoting mutual understanding across borders through various cultural activities in academia and the arts. She is one of the authors who have been gaining international recognition in recent years.