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.Read more...
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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."
- ISBN-13: 9780811225786
- ISBN-10: 081122578X
- Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
- Publish Date: November 2016
- Page Count: 288
- Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.6 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-09-05
- Reviewer: Staff
Written by acclaimed Japanese-German author Tawada, this immersive, dreamy novel follows three generations of a polar bear familygrandmother, daughter, sonas each tries to balance the public pressures of circus performing with the solitary satisfactions of a literary life. In the first section, the familys matriarch pens an acclaimed autobiography, Thunderous Applause for My Tears, which her agent, a wily sea lion, publishes without her permission. After emigrating to Canada in order to escape the oppressive heat of Berlin, she gives birth to Tosca, whose section focuses on the life of Barbara, Toscas innovative animal trainer. In the final section, Tosca bears Knut, an emblem for the polar bears plight and the ward of Matthias, his beloved caretaker. When Matthias dies suddenly, Knut must reckon with the renown of the estranged women who came before him, as well as his speciess shrinking place in a warming world. Though the sapien-centric middle portion pales in comparison, the first and third sections present a poignant blend of history and fairy tale, an inventive account of beasts often too humane for their own good. (Nov.)