The Emissary (Paperback)

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By Yoko Tawada, Margaret Mitsutani (Translator)
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Staff Reviews

The world of Tawada's new novel is about as delightful as a dystopia can get. Set in a quarantined, post-disaster Japan, the story juxtaposes the lives of Yoshiro, a 108-year-old man living a healthy, seemingly eternal life, and his young great-grandson, Mumei, who, despite being sickly, white-haired, and frail, is a keeper of great wisdom. Built into this surreal role reversal is Tawada's deft and poetic commentary on East and West and the blindness of our shortsighted world, which regains its light and beauty when filtered through Mumei’s eyes. A quick read sure to assuage some of the angst that the modern world throws at us these days. -Tony

— From Spring Booknotes 2018


Japan, after suffering from a massive irreparable disaster, cuts itself off from the world. Children are so weak they can barely stand or walk: the only people with any get-go are the elderly. Mumei lives with his grandfather Yoshiro, who worries about him constantly. They carry on a day-to-day routine in what could be viewed as a post-Fukushima time, with all the children born ancient--frail and gray-haired, yet incredibly compassionate and wise. Mumei may be enfeebled and feverish, but he is a beacon of hope, full of wit and free of self-pity and pessimism. Yoshiro concentrates on nourishing Mumei, a strangely wonderful boy who offers "the beauty of the time that is yet to come."

A delightful, irrepressibly funny book, The Emissary is filled with light. Yoko Tawada, deftly turning inside-out "the curse," defies gravity and creates a playful joyous novel out of a dystopian one, with a legerdemain uniquely her own.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780811227629
ISBN-10: 0811227626
Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication Date: April 24th, 2018
Pages: 128
Language: English