The Last Children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada

The last children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada

Japanese fiction

Original title – Kentoshi (献灯使)

Translator – Margaret Mitsutani

Source – Personel copy

I popped into the Waterstones in Morpeth on Holidfay and brought two books this was one of the two books I brought. Yoko Tawada has been on my radar  since her book Memoirs of a Polar bear was on the radar for the Booker international prize although she has had a lot of books translated over the years she has written in both German and Japanese and has won prizes in both countries.. Known for her connection between words and reality and also how language works she was asked to work on her germna translations which has lead to her comparing the two languages and cultures and even writing in German. This was originally written in Japanese and is the latest of her books to be tranalsted into English.

Every morning, Ypshiro rented a dog from the rent a dog place on the corner to run along the riverbank for about half an hour. Wehn the water level was low, the river looked like silver ribbons that stretched out much further than you’d expect. Long ago, this sort of purposeless running had been referred to as jogging, but with foreign words falling out of use now called loping down, an expression that had started out as a joke meaning “if you lope your blood pressure goes down” but everybody called it that these dats. And kids mumei’s age would never have dreamt that adding just an e in front of it the word lope could cunjure up visions of a young woman climbing down a ladder in the middle of the night to run away with her lover.

Running is a rare thing in this new world !

The last children focus on a greatr Grandfather a man over a hundred as most of those that are still alive at this time Yoshiro is living on the very edge of a no empty Tokyo where the centre is now a no go area and disaster zone. even running is rare as shown early on when the old man hires a dog to walk as the children struggle to do even this now. All this is after a huge catastrophe whoch has wiped out most of the humans and lead to wide spread pollution so those youngster living are growing up with huge problems with  the world changed this sees the areas countries closing themselves off as they tried to deal with the unnamed problems that were caused by the catastrophe this means that his grandson Mumei is growing with out the esential vitamins and minerals that we all need to grow things like Calicum  are in short supply so they are growing up with problems like poor teeeth  and bones so grow crooked and this has leads to people like Yoshiro to become a underground emissary to help the kids out. where they sneak out children on ships as the Japan they live in has gon back to the feudal state of isolation they try to get the kids to other places to find out what is causing the issues..will Yopshiro get his great grandosn out or will he end up worse off ?

On his front doorsteo, Yoshiro unrolled the paper. He hadn’t paid much attention to the newspaper as a young man, but ever since this mediahad been revivied after its disappearence, reading it carefully all the way through had become a daily ritual. As he let his eyes fly low over the poltics section, words such as regulation, standard, adaptation, policy, investigation, and caution stuck out like ttalks in a flattened field. actually reading this section was like slogging through a swamp. He musn’t spend his mornings this way; first, he had to get to Mumei off to school. The word school still carried a faint whiff of hope

School isn’t what it was as the kids die so young.

I loved this tale as given the world we have seen in the last year or two how quckly the world can change around us. what Tawada does so wellnhere is use the hostroy of Japan the isolate era the 200 plus years of the Edo peroid which saw Japan cut itself of from the world. The storyline of supplies running out remind of how we would deal with this and films like soylent green and how the world would have do what happen here and keep supplies for them selves. The other side to this story is the connection between the young and the old and the way Yoshiro regrets the waythe world has change as he relives his youth and how the children are unable to do what he did in his youth. A glinmpse into a world of children growing up with grave issues is told with a tender touches as we see a world flip as the old carry on living and the young are dying. A kafka view of a pandemic and the aftrermath where the world becomes a series of small boxes and if you are in the wrong box your fate is sealed !! Have you read any book by her ?

Winstons score – +A one of my favourite read this year !

 

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