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Memoirs of a Polar Bear Paperback – 2 Mar 2017

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (2 Mar. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846276314
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846276316
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 225,176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

'Tawada's accounts of alienation achieve a remarkable potency' -- New York Times

'Memoirs of a Polar Bear [is] philosophical, political and often profound... rich in physical sensation and whimsy, yet the intense emotion and powerful sense of justice suggest Tawada believes that engagement is the most effective method of communicating the distorted mirror through which we look at the world' -- Irish Times

'Surreal and beguiling [Tawada] delicately explores the ambiguities of parental love, and the blurred lines between human and animal... Fizzing with ideas on exile, migration and love. It's funny and outrageous, questioning what it means to be human... the triptych as a whole dazzles. The final paragraph, swirling with memory and snow evokes the calm gravity of Joyce's ending to The Dead' -- Spectator

'A surreal exploration of the bear with us... A work that plays with the fantastical and allegorical, the polar bear ultimately becomes both the grandiose repository of human desires and a creature nestled among us... Tawada mine[s] the rich historical seam as [she] seeks to understand the bears in our mind. It seems to me that the worlds of anthropology and fiction aren't that far apart' -- New Statesman

'Hauntingly strange... enchanting... deliciously whimsical and playful... it's through the eyes of [Tawada's] polar bears that we see humanity most clearly' -- National
'A writer of scrupulous intensity' --Kirkus Reviews

'In chronicling three generations of uniquely talented polar bears, the fantastically gifted Yoko Tawada has created an unforgettable meditation on celebrity, art, incarceration, and the nature of consciousness. Tawada is, far and away, one of my favourite writers working today - thrilling, discomfiting, uncannily beautiful, like no one you have ever read before. Memoirs of a Polar Bear is Tawada at her best: humanity, as seen through the eyes of these polar bears, has never looked quite so stirringly strange' --Lauren van den Berg, author of Find Me

'Tawada's bears are embodiements of what it means to be a human being, full of wonder and curiosity, and desires limited by circumstances' -- Asian Review of Books

'Magnificent... A heartfelt read ****' -- Press Association

'Playful and fascinating... Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, sometimes alienating, but always deeply intimate' -- 3AM Magazine

'Enchanting... [Tawada's] penetrating irony and deadpan surrealism fray our notions of home and combine to deliver another offbeat tale. An absorbing work from a fascinating mind' --Starred review, Kirkus

About the Author

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.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this most unusual book. I was lost in places but found it well worth reading
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lovely!
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Format: Paperback
The publisher sent me a copy of this book for an honest review.

Memoirs of a Polar Bear is a short and wonderful book that’s an interesting mix of reality and fantasy making it a surreal read. The book is formed of three parts, the first is told from the perspective of grandmother bear who used to be a circus performer, the second is about Barbara the animal trainer and Tosca (the first polar bear’s daughter), and the third is about Knut (Tosca’s son). Out of the three, Knut’s story was my favourite and it was also the saddest. I was surprised to learn that Knut was a real bear at the Berlin Zoological Garden, if you don’t know Knut’s story, I’d suggest reading the book first.

The unnamed grandmother’s part was most confusing to me to start off with because at the time she writes her memoir, there’s seamless communication between humans and animals. It was as though she were human too (but she isn’t, she’s a polar bear). When we get to Tosca’s part, there appears to be some struggle in communication, it’s not as easy and natural as it was in the grandmother’s part of the story. Finally, in Knut’s section, there’s no verbal communication between Knut and the humans. There appears to be a degeneration in communication as each generation takes over and I thought this was interesting. I was, of course, left with many unanswered questions. For example, are the polar bears actually human and do they simply perceive themselves as animals? Or is the author making the polar bears act as humans to make us question what the difference between humans and animals is?

At times I felt like the story became too surreal for my liking, I was confused and that put me off reading.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 13 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Reminds me of Modernist writings 19 May 2017
By Nicole - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Memoirs of a Polar Bear was definitely an interesting read. It combines historical fiction with magical realism in a way that really works well. All the while, the author brings up important questions, such as how one defines humanity or consciousness and what rights are associated. That might make this novel sound like it's preaching animal rights, but it really doesn't. It just gives you a different perspective on humanity and how humans treat and interact with one another. There are a lot of complex emotions that all the characters feel/express/struggle with that really show the author's skill.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poetry, not quite a full story though 3 May 2017
By Kate B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lovely turns of phrase for sure, but overall it missed the mark as a complete story.
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars 2 May 2017
By B Young - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
rather unusual book
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I had to read this for History Through Fiction class 22 Mar. 2017
By Colleen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Okay, so the whole thing is a metaphor but I don't understand what it is since the first part is so different from parts 2&3. I'm currently writing an essay about it and it's rough, man.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's the real thing called literature 7 Mar. 2017
By Janet Sternburg aka JMS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Whatever that mysterious thing called literature is, this is it.
I think that Kafka would have loved it. I did, and am spreading
the word.
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