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Yoko Tawada  [ Japan, Germany ]

Biography

Yoko Tawada Portrait
© Thomas Karsten

Guest 2005.

Bibliography

Das Fremde aus der Dose
Droschl
Wien, 1992

Sannin kankei
Kodansha
Tokyo, 1992

Das Bad
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 1993
Übersetzung: Peter Pörtner

Die Kranichmaske, die bei Nacht strahlt
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 1993

Ein Gast
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 1993

Spiegelbild
Edition Mariannenpresse
Berlin, 1994
Ill: Angelik Riemer

Tabula Rasa
Steffen Barth
Karlsruhe, 1994

Tintenfisch auf Reisen
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 1994
Übersetzung: Peter Pörtner

Wo Europa anfängt
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 1995

Ein Gedicht in einem Buch
CTL Presse
Hamburg, 1996

Nur da wo du bist, da ist nichts
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 1996
Übersetzung: Peter Pörtner

Talisman
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 1996

Aber die Mandarinen müssen heute abend noch geraubt werden
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 1997

Wie der Wind im Ei
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 1997

Hikon
Kodansha
Tokyo, 1998

Orpheus oder Izanagi
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 1998

Opium für Ovid
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 2000

Spielzeug und Sprachmagie in der europäischen Literatur
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 2000

Überseezungen
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 2002

Das nackte Auge
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 2004

Was ändert der Regen an unserem Leben
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 2005

Sprachpolizei und Spielpolyglotte. Literarische Essays
Konkursbuch
Tübingen, 2007

Übersetzer: Peter Pörtner

Yoko Tawada was born in Tokyo in 1960. At the age of twelve she wrote her first novel, which she then photocopied and distributed. She studied Literature with a focus on Russian, and at the age of nineteen began travelling in Russia.  However on the Transsiberian Express she got as far as Hamburg, where she returned in 1982 to study German Literature and to settle. She received her PhD with a thesis on »Playthings and Speech Magic in European Literature« and thereafter wrote her texts in German. Her first book to appear in German however was a translation from the Japanese, containing prose and poetry: »Nur da wo du bist, da ist nichts« (1987; Engl: Only There Where You are is Nothing).  In 1993 she was awarded the Akutagawa-Sho – the most renowned literature prize in Japan – for her story »Inumukoiri« (Engl: Dog Bridegroom), published in »Tintenfisch auf Reisen« (1994; Engl: Octopus on travels). In 1996 she won the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize.
At the centre of Tawada’s work lies the strangeness of language.  »Language is strange.  How else can it happen that a sentence which is completely true and genuine can still remain powerless?«  By pursuing this question with subtle naivety, Tawada also renders enigmatic the unmediated understanding of the world which is inherent in every culture. As poetic ethnologist she brings the exoticism of everyday life to the fore, for instance in »Talisman« (1996), a volume of short stories.  In the title story a pair of earrings become talismans. A magical dimension of the everyday life is also apparent in »Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Ein deutsches Rätsel« (Engl: Rothenburg ob der Tauber: A German Puzzle), another story in the volume, which is conceived in the twisted form of a pretzel: »Apparently the baker’s function was to create puzzles which people can’t solve, but eat.«
The strange and estranged view with which Tawada writes is also a feature of the protagonist of »Das nackte Auge« (2004; Engl: The Naked Eye), a Vietnamese who ends up in Paris involuntarily, without speaking a word of French.  For her, everything starts to resonate in an incomprehensible and mysterious way: gestures, faces, letters, things – while she herself remains speechless.  Through the perception of unexpected correspondences between these enigmatic signs, reality is transformed into a dream world.  Metamorphosis is also a theme in »Opium für Ovid« (2000; Engl: Opium for Ovid), in which the Western literary tradition resurfaces under an Eastern gaze. It is not surprising that the author alludes to Dadaism (in the prose piece »Zürich«, 1997) and, during a lecture tour, to Ernst Jandl.
In 1997 Tawada received a grant to stay at the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles, followed by a lectureship in Poetics at Tübingen in 1998 and, one year later, as Max Kade Distinguished Visitor at MIT.  In 2005 she was awarded the Goethe Medal by the Goethe Institute.  She has given countless readings and lectures at literature houses around the world and at different universities.  In collaboration with jazz pianist Aki Takase she produced a CD.  After 'Talisman' (1996; t: Talisman) and 'Überseezungen' (2002; t: Over-Sea-Tongues) appeared 'Sprachpolizei und Spielpolyglotte' (2007; t: Language Police and Game Polyglots), her third volume of literary essays.  She is going to be Writer in Residence at Washington University, St. Louis in 2008 and at Stanford University, USA, in 2009.  The author commutes between Tokyo and Hamburg.

© international literature festival berlin

[http://www.tawada.de/]