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In Yoko Tawada’s The Emissary, Tawada creates a dystopian world in which the old never die and the young are weak and sickly. Keeping in mind that this work has been translated from Japanese to English, Tawada’s gives us a vivid view of this dystopian Japan. She tells us that Japan has become completely isolated from the world, and her language reflects this. Through the eyes of Yoshiro, Tawada only shows us a small section of an outer district of Tokyo. Yoshiro has memories of the outside world, but he never goes far from his simple house. The same goes for Mumei who is too sickly to go far, providing us only with the view of his home and the school. Keeping the vision of these characters so narrow makes the reader believe in this isolation.

Tawada addresses some very serious questions in The Emissary. What will be the consequences of our prolonged abuse of our environment? What is the future for the elderly? The young? What are the consequences of a nuclear conflict? Tawada never directly addresses these questions, just gives us an image of an absurd and terrible future. We talked about humor in The Emissary on Tuesday but I think it is a very important part of this book. Tawada addresses these morbid questions with a bit of humor while at the same time, offering us a dark dystopian world. She makes the questions easier to digest, just not answer.

Something else we touched on briefly in The Emissary is the fact that we barely know anything about “the emissaries.” Tawada gives us a basic understanding of what it is but she never goes in depth, never explores that plot line anymore than a few pages. I wonder why she made this choice? It felt like another story was just about to begin yet she cuts it off right as it is about to start. What does she mean by making this decision to end the novel there? I don’t know if there are any real answers but it’s worth thinking about.


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