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Publisher's Summary

Yoko Tawada's new novel is a breathtakingly light-hearted meditation on mortality and fully displays what Rivka Galchen has called her "brilliant, shimmering, magnificent strangeness"

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.

©2018 Yoko Tawada; translation Margaret Mitsutani (P)2018 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"Near-future Japan has been cut off from the outside world, leaving 108-year-old Yoshiro trapped with his great-grandson Mumei in a spartan 'temporary' house. The population is divided between those born before the calamity - whose life spans have been mysteriously lengthened - and those enfeebled by it: 'The aged could not die; along with the gift of everlasting life, they were burdened with the terrible task of watching their great-grandchildren die.' Tawada’s novel is infused with the anxieties of a 'society changing at the speed of pebbles rolling down a steep hill,' yet she imagines a ruined world with humor and grace." (Publishers Weekly)

"Recessive, lunar beauty [with] a high sheen. Her language has never been so arresting - flickering brilliance." (Parul Sehgal, The New York Times

"Persistent mystery is what is so enchanting about Tawada’s writing. 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." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) 

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  • Kenneth McGovern
  • 2019-02-17

Tedious. Waste of time.

I struggled to finish this seemingly short book. Interesting premise. Poorly written. I have read some very long tedious books in my life. This book stole time from me that I shall never get back.

1 person found this helpful