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The Emissary by Yoko Tawada
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The Emissary

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The Emissary by Yoko Tawada
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Apr 24, 2018 | ISBN 9781984832092 | 248 Minutes

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Praise

Near-future Japan has been cut off from the outside world, leaving 108-year-old Yoshiro trapped with his great-grandson Mumei in a spartan “temporary” house. The population is divided between those born before the calamity—whose life spans have been mysteriously lengthened—and those enfeebled by it: “The aged could not die; along with the gift of everlasting life, they were burdened with the terrible task of watching their great-grandchildren die.” Tawada’s novel is infused with the anxieties of a ‘society changing at the speed of pebbles rolling down a steep hill,’ yet she imagines a ruined world with humor and grace. — Publishers Weekly

Recessive, lunar beauty [with] a high sheen. Her language has never been so arresting—flickering brilliance. — Parul Sehgal (The New York Times)

Persistent mystery is what is so enchanting about Tawada’s writing. Her penetrating irony and deadpan surrealism fray our notions of home and combine to deliver another offbeat tale. An absorbing work from a fascinating mind. — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Emissary carries us beyond the limits of what is it is to be human, in order to remind us of what we must hold dearest in our conflicted world, our humanity. — Sjón

A mini-epic of eco-terror, family drama and speculative fiction. Tawada’s interest is satirical as much as tragic, with public holidays chosen by popular vote (Labour Day becomes Being Alive Is Enough Day) and a privatized police force whose activities now centre on its brass band. It’s this askew way of looking at things amid the ostensibly grim premise, and a sprightly use of language that makes The Emissary a book unlike any other. — Guardian

“Like sashimono woodwork, Tawada needs no exposition to nail down her dystopia. The Emissary achieves a technically impossible balance of open-hearted fable and cold-blooded satire.” — Financial Times

An airily beautiful dystopian novella about mortality. Tawada’s quirky style and ability to jump from realism to abstraction manages to both chastise humanity for the path we are taking towards destruction and look hopefully toward an unknown future. — Enobong Essien (Booklist)

A phantasmagoric representation of humanity’s fraught relationship with technology and the natural world. — Brian Haman (Asian Review of Books)

Charming, light, and unapologetically strange…There’s an impish delight in [each] sentence that energizes what is otherwise a despairing note. Tawada finds a way to make a story of old men trapped in unending life and children fated to die before their time joyful, comic, and—frankly—a huge comfort. — J.W. McCormack (BOMB)

A Hieronymus Bosch–like painting in novel form. Tawada’s charming surrealism imparts an off-kilter quality to her work that would make it feel slight, if it weren’t for the density, precision, and uniqueness of her mind. A slim and beguiling novel in Margaret Mitsutani’s enchanting and flawless translation. — Marie Mutsuki Mockett (Public Books)

“Everywhere in the Japan of Yoko Tawada’s The Emissary, strange mutations unfold. In the years (perhaps decades, or perhaps generations) since an environmental catastrophe, the basic tenets of biology have broken down. Children are born weak, with birdlike bones and soft teeth. The elderly, in turn, are youthful, athletic, seem to have been ‘robbed of death’. Men begin to experience menopausal symptoms as they age. Everyone’s sex changes inexplicably and at random at least once in their lives…Tawada has gifted us a quiet new magical realism for the Anthropocene.” — Rebecca Bates (The White Review)

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