Tawada’s stories agitate the mind like songs half remembered or treasure boxes whose keys are locked within.
—The New York Times
Tawada’s accounts of alienation achieve a remarkable potency.
—The New York Times Book Review
A distinguished contribution to the unique paranoid style of the new European novel.
—Anis Shivani, The Brooklyn Rail
Her finest stories dramatize the fate of the individual in a mobilized world.
—Benjamin Lytal, The New York Sun
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.
In chronicling the lives of three generations of uniquely talented polar bears, the fantastically gifted Yoko Tawada has created an unforgettable meditation on celebrity, art, incarceration, and the nature of consciousness. Tawada is, far and away, one of my favorite writers working today—thrilling, discomfiting, uncannily beautiful, like no one you have ever read before. Memoirs of a Polar Bear is Tawada at her best: humanity, as seen through the eyes of these bears, has never looked quite so stirringly strange.
—Laura van den Berg
But like those of Bridegroom, the animal characters of Memoirs pursue a hybrid existence, refusing to romanticize the state of nature.
—Christine Smallwood, Harper's Magazine
As acrobatic with her writing as her polar bear subjects, Yoko Tawada walks a line between fantastical yet believable.
—World Literature Today
This utterly brilliant and absolutely delightful novel by Japanese-born Yoko Tawada, written in German, is by far the freshest take I’ve read on both foreignness and writing in I don’t even know how long--possibly ever.
—Jennifer Croft, Best Translated Book Awards
In ‘Memoirs,’ when a polar bear walks into a bookstore or a grocery store, there are no troubles stemming from a lack of opposable thumbs. As with Kafka’s animal characters, we are freed to dislike them in the special way we usually reserve only for ourselves.
Memoirs gives us an often funny and intimate perspective on what it must be like to be a sentient bear in an overwhelmingly human world.
—Clio Chang, New Republic
Finely spun bear-tales.
—M. A. Orthofer, Complete Review
Writing, for Tawada, is solace—the only way for us to do what the bears in this story do naturally is to pull together the pieces and express something innate we didn't know we had language for. Memoirs' great triumph is to literalize this process, to replace a metaphysical problem of expression with concrete representation.
—Kyle Paoletta, BOMB Magazine
Both a novel of ideas and Knut fan fiction, Memoirs of a Polar Bear is as densely philosophical as it is deliciously absurd, and as playful as it is poignant....To read it is to become polar bear, without being permitted release from the limitations of our humanness.
Tawada bears out the truth that tongues can also bring inventive thoughts to vibrant life.
—Steven G. Kellman, The Boston Globe
Ms Tawada brings her fine-nosed, soft-furred beasts credibly to life... [Tawada] has a deadpan wit and disorienting mischief all her own, nimbly translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky.
This novel is "doubly translated" in the sense that Yoko Tawada first wrote it in Japanese and then translated it herself into German, from whence it was recrafted into English. It even boasts an additional layer of translating, as it were, since the first part of the book is narrated by a Russian-speaking bear. The story itself follows three generations of polar bears across the world in a powerful tale of both family and isolation.
—Lucas Iberico Lozada, Paste Magazine
The novel’s eldest bear describes writing as a 'dangerous acrobatic stunt.' In Memoirs of a Polar Bear, Tawada executes this stunt with the effortless grace of a seasoned circus performer.
—Thomas Michael Duncan, Words Without Borders
Tawada asks us to see writing from an unusual perspective: it is like balancing on a ball, or hunting. Thus we’re forced to see writing not just as a cerebral art but a physical one, as well.
—Chad W. Post, Three Percent
For all the wonderful workings of plot and structure in Memoirs of a Polar Bear, what is truly affecting is Tawada's writing, which jumps off the page and practically sings.
—Juan Vidal, NPR