Found in Translation Book Club: Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada
Join us for Febraury's meeting of Found in Translation! This is a book club where each month we dive into a fresh English translations of stand-out fiction from around the world.
This month, we're reading Memoirs of A Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky.
Memoirs of a Polar Bear stars three generations of talented writers and performers―who happen to be polar bears.
The Memoirs of a Polar Bear has in spades what Rivka Galchen hailed in the New Yorker as “Yoko Tawada’s magnificent strangeness”―Tawada is an author like no other. Three generations (grandmother, mother, son) of polar bears are famous as both circus performers and writers in East Germany: they are polar bears who move in human society, stars of the ring and of the literary world. In chapter one, the grandmother matriarch in the Soviet Union accidentally writes a bestselling autobiography. In chapter two, Tosca, her daughter (born in Canada, where her mother had emigrated) moves to the DDR and takes a job in the circus. Her son―the last of their line―is Knut, born in chapter three in a Leipzig zoo but raised by a human keeper in relatively happy circumstances in the Berlin zoo, until his keeper, Matthias, is taken away...
Happy or sad, each bear writes a story, enjoying both celebrity and “the intimacy of being alone with my pen.
“Memoirs of a Polar Bear” hums with beautiful strangeness. Look at the animals we are. Look at us searching for love, for meaning, for our own true forms.
—Ramona Ausubel, The New York Times
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