The Emissary

Winner, National Book Awards 2018 for Translated Literature

ISBN 9780811227629
New Directions Publishing
Yoko Tawada

Yoko Tawada was born in Tokyo in 1960, moved to Hamburg when she was 22, 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. More about this author >

author photo Margaret Mitsutani. (Photo credit: Yasushi Mitsutani)
Margaret Mitsutani

Margaret Mitsutani is a translator of Yoko Tawada and Japan’s 1994 Nobel Prize laureate Kenzaburō Ōe. More about this author >

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Translated by Margaret Mitsutani

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.”


Monique Truong (on behalf of Yoko Tawada) and Margaret Mitsutani accept the 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature

Margaret Mitsutani and Monique Truong (for Yoko Towada) read at the NBAs Finalists Reading