A review by rhogregoire
The Emissary, by Yōko Tawada

dark sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes


Read this for a comparative literature class on apocalyptic fiction. The imagery is very pretty: it feels a bit like a collection of visual scenes that flow into each other.

It's a pretty classic bad climate future - Japan has no future - it's totally isolated, losing language, with the elderly caring for dying children who seem to become less and less human as time goes on. Assuming it's not just a quirk of translation, the descriptive language adds a lot to the book. It's really heavy on similes and metaphors: everything is a little like something else. The author avoids describing anything in it's own right,  often using descriptions which are visually interesting but don't make a lot of literal sense (for example, describing the sun moving like a "hunted animal") which adds to the hazy imagery. The language also echos the narrative of a closed system - the dying children mean the country cannot regenerate, as well as Japan's isolation - and self-censorship to avoid doing or saying anything that might be deemed foreign. 

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