Author(s): Yoko Tawada; Susan Bernofsky
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."
A story of three polar bears: a memoirist who flees the Soviet Union; a dancer in an East Berlin circus; and Knut, a baby bear born in Berlin Zoo at the beginning of the 21st Century
YOKO TAWADA was born in Tokyo in 1960, moved to Hamburg when she was twenty-two, and then to Berlin in 2006. She writes in both Japanese and German, and has published several books-stories, novels, poems, plays, essays-in both languages. She has received numerous awards for her writing including the Akutagawa Prize, the Kleist-Prize, the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, the Tanizaki Prize, and the Goethe Medal. New Directions publishes her story collections Where Europe Begins (with a Preface by Wim Wenders) and Facing the Bridge, and her novel of Catherine Deneuve obsession, The Naked Eye.