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 filed 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.
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.
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
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 phantasmagoric representation of humanity’s fraught relationship with technology and the natural world.
—Brian Haman, Asian Review of Books
Recessive, lunar beauty [with] a high sheen. Her language has never been so arresting—flickering brilliance.
—Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
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, author of Moonstone
Tawada’s latest disorienting mythology is set in a Japan ravaged by a catastrophe. If children are the future, what does it presage that, post-disaster, they are emerging from the womb as frail, aged creatures blessed with an uncanny wisdom?
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
In this slim, impactful novel, surrealist master Tawada imagines a dystopian Japan reckoning with its own identity. An ebullient meditation on language and time that feels strikingly significant in the present moment.