Paul Celan and the Trans-Tibetan Angel (Paperback)
A moving story about friendship, illness, and the poetry of Paul Celan by the astonishing Yoko Tawada, winner of the National Book Award
Patrik, who sometimes calls himself “the patient,” is a literary researcher living in present-day Berlin. The city is just coming back to life after lockdown, and his beloved opera houses are open again, but Patrik cannot leave the house and hardly manages to get out of bed. When he shaves his head, his girlfriend scolds him, “What have you done to your head? I don’t want to be with a prisoner from a concentration camp!” He is supposed to give a paper at a conference in Paris, on the poetry collection Threadsuns by Paul Celan, but he can’t manage to get past the first question on the registration form: “What is your nationality?” Then at a café (or in the memory of being at a café?), he meets a mysterious stranger. The man’s name is Leo-Eric Fu, and somehow he already knows Patrik…
In the spirit of imaginative homage like Roberto Bolano’s Monsieur Pain, Antonio Tabucchi’s Requiem, and Thomas Bernhard’s Wittgenstein’s Nephew, Yoko Tawada’s mesmerizing new novel unfolds like a lucid dream in which friendship, conversation, reading, poetry, and music are the connecting threads that bind us together.
About the Author
Born in Tokyo in 1960, Yoko Tawada writes in both Japanese and German: she has received the Akutagawa, Kleist, Lessing, Noma, Adelbert von Chamisso, and Tanizaki prizes, as well as the Goethe Medal. Her novel The Emissary won the National Book Award. Rivka Galchen in the New York Times Magazine hailed her work as “magnificently strange.”
For New Directions, Susan Bernofsky has translated Yoko Tawada’s Where Europe Begins, The Naked Eye, and Memoirs of a Polar Bear (winner of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation), eight titles by the great Swiss-German modernist Robert Walser, and five books by Jenny Erpenbeck, including The End of Days (winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize). She is the author of Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser, and teaches at Columbia University, where she also directs the literary translation program.
The varied characters in Tawada’s work—from different countries, of different sexes and species—are united by the quality that Walter Benjamin describes as ‘crepuscular’: ‘None has a firm place in the world, or firm, inalienable outlines.’
— Rivka Galchen - The New York Times Magazine
Yoko Tawada conjures a world between languages. . . . She is a master of subtraction, whose characters often find themselves stripped of language in foreign worlds.
— Julian Lucas - The New Yorker
Tawada is interested in language at its most elusive or incomprehensible.
— Natasha Wimmer - The New York Review of Books