The Emissary by Yoko Tawada, translated by Margaret Mitsutani [in Library Journal]
Japanese-born, Germany-based Tawada (Memoirs of a Polar Bear) writes facilely in both languages and creates incomparable award-winning fiction that defies easy labels. Tawada’s latest in translation (smoothly rendered by Mitsutani, who also translated one of Tawada’s earliest works, the three-storied The Bridegroom Was a Dog) introduces a symbiotically bonded duo who are a century apart in age.
At almost 108, Yoshiro still jogs every morning for half an hour – with a rented dog. His reason for (still) living is Mumei, his daughter’s son’s son – to get him up, dressed, mandarin-juiced, out the door to practice walking a few steps, then biked the rest of the way to his elementary school. In this alternate future, everything – soil, sky, oceans – is potentially poisoned, most animals have disappeared, and even the children face extinction. Only the elderly seems to have long, long life – perhaps more curse than blessing as they bear the responsibility for being guardians to fragile, weakened new generations unprepared for survival. And yet despite his seemingly truncated prognosis, Mumei’s outlook remains full of insight and charm.
Blending fairy tale, dystopian warning, peculiar mystery, cultural critique, and multigenerational family saga, Tawada’s latest literary, linguistic mélange should satiate even the most discerning international fiction aficionados.
Published: 2018 (United States)