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Memoirs of a Polar Bear
Memoirs of a Polar Bear | Y?ko Tawada
The Memoirs of a Polar Bearhas in spades what Rivka Galchen hailed in theNew Yorkeras Yoko Tawada s magnificent strangeness Tawada is an author like no other. Three generations (grandmother, mother, son) of polar bears are famous as both circus performers and writers in East Germany: they are polar bears who move in human society, stars of the ring and of the literary world. In chapter one, the grandmother matriarch in the Soviet Union accidentally writes a bestselling autobiography. In chapter two, Tosca, her daughter (born in Canada, where her mother had emigrated) moves to the DDR and takes a job in the circus. Her son the last of their line is Knut, born in chapter three in a Leipzig zoo but raised by a human keeper in relatively happy circumstances in the Berlin zoo, until his keeper, Matthias, is taken away...Happy or sad, each bear writes a story, enjoying both celebrity and the intimacy of being alone with my pen. "
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diovival
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"Horse dung looked dignified. I could have brought it to church as an offering like the sheaves of wheat placed on an altar during the harvest festival. Horse dung took on the form of an artwork when it fell to the ground--I wanted to learn to fall as skillfully as it did."

IamIamIam 😂😂 You're always finding such interesting subject matter!!! 8mo
diovival @IamIamIam how else am I gonna find literary descriptions of dignified poop. 😂 8mo
23 likes2 comments
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diovival
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My stubborn determination to finish this book has really thrown a monkey wrench into my overall reading plans. Nearing the end this week.

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diovival
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"The adjective 'cold' has such an appealing sound. I'd give up anything to experience such cold, for Ice Queen beauty, for shivering jouissance. The ice-cold truth. Acrobatic marvels that give you cold feet. A talent that makes all your competitors blanch and tremble as if frozen. Rationality hone sharp as an icicle. Cold has a broad spectrum." #wordoftheday

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diovival

"Many times in the past I had danced atop a gigantic ball, ridden a stunt tricycle and a circus motorcycle. But publishing an autobiography was a far more dangerous acrobatic feet."

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diovival

"In the mirror I saw my red-smeared lips, a masterpiece of the beets. I'd never eaten root vegetables voluntarily, but when a beet came swimming in my bowl of borscht, I immediately wanted to kiss it. Bobbing amid the lovely dots of fat floating on top--which at once awoke my appetite for meat--the beet was irresistible."

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diovival
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Next up!

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Fiona6
Pickpick

How unusual! A book written by a polar bear. Sounds strange but I really enjoyed it. Each bear is very different and three write in this book. This may not be a book I read again and again but it was fascinating and enlightening read.

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Hattie1993
Pickpick

Bizarre in the best kind of way. Beautiful and dream-like in places, heartbreakingly real in others. The innocence of the bears‘ POVs had me laughing out loud and crying, smiling and erupting in goosebumps in turns throughout.

Purrfectpages Welcome to Litsy! 10mo
1 comment
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WhereTheBooksGo
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I love books narrated by animals, and have been utterly beguiled by the first third of this story of three polar bears.

13 likes4 stack adds
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VioletBramble
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My June TBR selections.
#readingresolutions
#Junetbr

riversong153 The lovely bones was really good. 1y
37 likes1 stack add2 comments
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xicanti
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Pickpick

Don't you love it when the book you chose at random from your library's New Additions section is frickin amazing?

I'm not even sure how to talk about MEMOIRS OF A POLAR BEAR. It's weird-ass shit. It's wonderful. It's often sad, but it finds joy in unexpected places. It asks us to consider what we expect from animals and, by extension, people. It questions who stories belong to. And there's a ton about communism I'm not sure I got, but you might.

50 likes4 stack adds
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xicanti
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I did another small puzzle solely so I'd have an excuse to listen to MEMOIRS OF A POLAR BEAR. It's way too cold for #audiowalking today--the book's protagonists would love this weather--but #audiopuzzling works just fine.

LauraBeth This is cute! 2y
Andrew65 Love that puzzle! 2y
xicanti @LauraBeth @Andrew65 I was lucky enough to get two puzzles by artist Cindy Mangutz last weekend. The other one looks just as much fun as this fair scene! 2y
Andrew65 @xicanti No big patches of blue sky in this one. 😊 2y
xicanti @Andrew65 thank goodness! 2y
38 likes5 comments
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xicanti
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I couldn't resist this little Charles Wysocki puzzle at the library swap. I worked it up tonight partly because his art is fun and partly so I'd have an excuse to listen to more of MEMOIRS OF A POLAR BEAR, which is weird and wonderful and sad. #audiopuzzling

SuziQoregon Wysocki puzzles are so fun 2y
TobeyTheScavengerMonk I stacked the Polar Bear book back when @Lindy was reading it and this reminds me I need to make it happen! 2y
Lindy @TobeyTheScavengerMonk Yes! Make it happen! 2y
xicanti @SuziQoregon I love his folk art style. 2y
xicanti @TobeyTheScavengerMonk yes, do it! I borrowed it at random from my library's New Additions section and I'm mighty impressed. @Lindy 2y
56 likes5 comments
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xicanti
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I finished the puzzle! Even with the colour variations, that frickin sky took me all of BROWN GIRL DREAMING and a goodly chunk of MEMOIRS OF A POLAR BEAR. #audiopuzzling

readinginthedark ❤️ Side note: your quest to read all of the X-Men comics=awesome! (edited) 2y
xicanti @readinginthedark thanks! Sometimes, becoming an X-pert has been awesome and sometimes it's been extraordinarily boring. Thankfully, the former times outweigh the latter. 2y
readinginthedark I need to read more of them! X-Men is the best! Also, “X-pert?” You‘re amazing! 😆❤️ 2y
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AceOnRoam Yay, it's fantastic. I walked past a store today with puzzles but hubby says what about the 2 you have that are still shrink wrapped... he just doesn't get it!!! 2y
xicanti @readinginthedark the number one rule of X-Men discourse is that if you CAN make an x-pun, you MUST make an x-pun. In related news, it delighted me how the creative team behind THE GIFTED not only made sure every episode title had an X in it but CAPITALIZED the X so you COULDN'T MISS IT. It's one of the most X-Men things anyone has ever done. 2y
RebelReader 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻 2y
xicanti @AceOnRoam yeah, it's important to build up a puzzle backlog so you don't run out! 2y
AceOnRoam Exactly! 2y
RealLifeReading Nice!! 2y
Andrew65 Yey! It‘s finished, pesky blue skies. 👍👏🙌🍾🥂 2y
readinginthedark Seems reasonable. Are you following a comprehensive list or just hunting them all down by year or something? 2y
xicanti @RealLifeReading it was a fun one. 2y
xicanti @Andrew65 sometimes I quit before I've finished the sky, unless there's a lot of interesting cloud cover in the image, but Littens encouraged me to keep going with this one. 2y
xicanti @readinginthedark I have Marvel Unlimited, so when I was in the thick of it I added all the core X-series to my library, which automatically sorted them by publication order. I then rotated between the overlapping series by arc. I'm basically finished now, so I just pick away at X-adjacent miniseries and the like in whatever order I please. 2y
readinginthedark Oh, that‘s smart! 2y
UwannaPublishme 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 2y
TricksyTails Wow! That was fast! 👏😁 2y
56 likes18 comments
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whereistexasjen
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got my tourism on in nyc 🗽

Tamra The Door will leave a memorable impression! 2y
11 likes1 comment
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Mitch
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@ScorpioBookDreams Thanks for the prompt! Envy people with lots of T‘s on their name!
M - Memoirs Of. A Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada. I - Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk. T - The Paying Guest by Sarah Waters. C - Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin. H - Half A Yellow Sun by Chimiamanda Ngozi Adichie

TheReadingMermaid Tamara:
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne,
A History of the World by Hugh Thomas,
Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice,
At dawn we slept by Gordon Prange,
Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary,
Astrology and You by Carol Righter
2y
39 likes1 comment
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wanderlustforwords
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Well, I tried this and just couldn't get into it. It sure is a fun premise, three generations of polar bears, circus performers evolving to live and act like humans. I love fantastical magical realism, it could just be the timing, but this one is a DNF. #litsy #read #books

IWriteInTheNight Awww the premise sounds promising. 2y
mommyincolor I just started this book today. So far, not bad. 2y
wanderlustforwords @concreterosereads5889 Hi Jennice! Nothing like a reply months later. 😳 I‘m still a newbie here and finally figuring out replying etc... Did you like it? 2y
11 likes1 stack add4 comments
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mhillis
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Memoirs of a Polar Bear won the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation! Moving this up on my TBR📚 #wit #translation

54 likes2 stack adds2 comments
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Canadian.Reads
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I'm on a translated works kick...started this last night and it is surprising and different and exactly why I like reading translations. This has to be the only adult fiction told from the point of view of a polar bear. 🐨🐾 (I think that's a koala but close enough)

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pattiepoetry
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Visited my favourite bookshop today, The Book Hive in Norwich, and bought these two lovelies ♡

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literaery-me
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Pickpick

Hard to get into at first, but it's such a !!!! kind of a book. Such a balance between fantasy and reality, plus so blurred lines between man and bear that it's hard to tell the two apart most of the time. So thoughtful and interesting.

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thereadingwomen
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Pickpick

This book has been on my TBR for ages. Is an interesting story that follows three generations of polar bear circus performers. It's told in three parts and from three different perspectives. I'm not sure what I expected, but it was fascinating and really made me think about the ethics of animal performances. At the same time, I absolutely fell in love with the polar bears. Hear my full review on Ep. 27. - A

Booknerd2 Are animals hurt or horribly mistreated in it?😢 2y
thereadingwomen @Booknerd2 Physical violence doesn't happen to them. But she does talk about the training one of them got in the circus and about what it was like for another to live in a zoo. - A 2y
Booknerd2 @thereadingwomen Thanks. I just have a hard time reading about animals being hurt 2y
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thereadingwomen @Booknerd2 I completely understand. Thanks for asking. 😊 2y
Cinfhen Great review/ I wasn't quite sure what this book was about & now I feel better informed 😊thanks‼️ 2y
thereadingwomen @Cinfhen So good to hear! It's a difficult book explain, for sure. - A 2y
94 likes26 stack adds6 comments
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literaery-me
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"I feel like the little girl in a bear book for children."
"Which bear? Winnie-the-Pooh? Or maybe Paddington?"
I didn't know either of these bears. "I mean Lev Tolstoy's The Three Bears!"
Wolfgang said: "I've never heard of that one."

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Viji
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Just one of the many reasons to love Powells! A whole display of women in translation.

charl08 Brilliant! I can see Han Kang and Ferrante... 2y
Louise Awesome! Did you pick up some good ones? Pray tell! 2y
QuintusMarcus What an awesome display! 2y
129 likes3 comments
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strangemelodies
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review
Kalalalatja
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Panpan

I don't really know how to describe this book. Three generations of polar bear's memoirs, which are kinda confusing and really weird. I kinda liked the third part about Knut, but the first two were just not my thing. I don't know what I had expected, but this definitely wasn't it.

elkeo_TheBookDragon Cool idea, cool cover, and cool photo - Too bad it didn't make any sense though! 3y
Cinfhen I agree with @elkeo 3y
Kalalalatja @elkeo @Cinfhen it had so much going for it! I think a lot of people might like this book, but it just fell flat for me... 3y
valeriegeary This book was a trip! I liked the first section better than the rest, even though it was so so weird. Definitely not a book for everyone but I got a kick out of it. 3y
Kalalalatja @valeriegeary That's awesome! It was just a bit too weird for me, I think, but I am glad you liked it! 3y
69 likes5 comments
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Lindy
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Last month, I rated 15 out of 30 books with 5 stars on Goodreads. This month, only 6 out of 30 got 5 stars, but that made it easier to choose my favourites. Exit West and Memoirs of a Polar Bear both look at human global migration. Du Iz Tak? is an adorable #picturebook with anthropomorphic insects and an invented language.

emilyhaldi Impressive! 👏🏻 3y
melbeautyandbooks Wow! That's awesome! 3y
43 likes2 comments
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Kalalalatja
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#Readathon is over and I read four books, and made it half way through a fifth. Of the books I read, they have all been four or five stars, so all in all a pretty good readathon in my opinion. Now, I really need a nap! 😴📚

Cinfhen Great job 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 3y
JenP Way to go! 3y
Theresa Woohoo! 🎉 3y
82 likes1 stack add3 comments
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Kalalalatja
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The last snacks and the last book of my #readathon. So far this book is weird, and I don't really know what I feel about it yet.

61 likes2 stack adds
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Lindy
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Pickpick

Revolutionary. Funny. Surprising. Surreal. Three generations of polar bears - interacting closely with humans - provide viewpoints of emotional power and poetic reality about personal relationships, culture, immigration, and politics. Translation from German by Susan Bernofsky.

TobeyTheScavengerMonk Thanks so much for all the quotes. They were wonderful! (edited) 3y
Lindy @TobeyTheScavengerMonk You are most welcome. 😊 3y
Hobbinol I enjoyed all the quotes too! 3y
Lindy @Hobbinol Yay! It was a pleasure. 3y
51 likes4 comments
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Lindy
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Was my longing for the world beyond the wall not in and of itself proof that I was a Berliner? When I was born, the Berlin Wall was already part of history, but many Berliners still carried a wall around with them in their brains, separating the right and left halves.

[Image courtesy of Google]

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Lindy
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The male members of the species Homo sapiens appealed to me a great deal. They were soft and small and had fragile but adorable teeth. Their fingers were delicately constructed, the fingernails all but nonexistent. Sometimes they reminded me of stuffed animals, lovely to hold in one's arms.

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Lindy
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Recently a visitor tossed a pumpkin into my enclosure. It was an amusing present. It rolled across the stone and fell into the water, but it didn't drown: to my astonishment, it knew how to swim.

[That's my sister in the photo, hanging out with pumpkin people in the Magdalen Islands.]

shawnmooney Hello pumpkin! 😍 3y
Hobbinol Love this photo! 3y
Lindy @Hobbinol Thanks! 3y
38 likes3 comments
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Lindy
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I wanted to wrap myself in the black woollen blanket of grief and brood over my clutch of sorrows until they hatched and flew away.

33 likes1 stack add
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Lindy
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This visit by two men made my pen go limp. Of course, the image of a pen standing up vertically or not strikes me as unduly masculine. As a female I am more inclined to say: The smaller the newborn text, the better, because then it has a better chance at survival.

saresmoore I don't really have words in response to this quote-image pairing, but I feel like it warrants a comment! (edited) 3y
Lindy @saresmoore thanks for commenting! I saw this creature at the tile museum in Lisbon. 3y
28 likes2 comments
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Lindy
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The specialists conjectured that Tosca's stressful circus life had made her lose her maternal instincts. It's well known that circus animals under Socialism were overworked and under a great deal of pressure.

valeriegeary This book was such a trip! 3y
Lindy @valeriegeary Agreed. I finished it a couple days ago but it's still very much in my thoughts. 3y
32 likes1 stack add2 comments
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Lindy
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All of them were referred to as birds, even though the only thing they had in common was wings. The sparrow, a brown mixture of modesty and agitation, the blackbird with her unassuming humour, the magpie's painted mask, and the pigeon, who lost no opportunity to repeat her favourite motto: "Really? How interesting. I had no idea!"

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Lindy
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"pressure had been put on them by religious fundamentalists who refused to tolerate our kiss. One of the many threatening letters they received said: 'Sexual fantasies involving bears are a form of Teutonic barbarism.'" -Tawada

[Did anyone else think of Engel's Bear upon reading that passage?]

LeahBergen I've never read Bear. 😬 3y
Lindy @LeahBergen It's remarkable in so many ways. Tawada makes me want to revisit it. 3y
LeahBergen But actually, that passage did make me think of it (as I knew what it was about). 3y
32 likes3 comments
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Lindy
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Equally misplaced was the notion "maternal instinct." With animals, childrearing is a matter not of instinct but of art. It can't be very much different for humans or they wouldn't keep adopting children of different species.

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Lindy
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"Why do panda bears bore you?"
"Since they're born wearing such impressive makeup, they don't make any effort to be interesting. They neither master any stageworthy tricks nor write autobiographies."

Hobbinol ☺️ 3y
41 likes2 comments
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Lindy
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I changed the channel and found myself looking at two panda bears. Two politicians stood outside their cage, shaking hands. I found these panda bears meddling in human politics improper.

Hobbinol 😆 3y
37 likes1 comment
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Lindy
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My German textbook was more economically priced than a large package of salmon, but unfortunately harder to digest.

Sace I loved German when I took it in high school. 3y
Lcsmcat These quotes are totally making me want to read this book! 3y
Lindy @Lcsmcat Hooray! I hope you do. 3y
30 likes1 stack add3 comments
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Lindy
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"You have to write in your own mother tongue. You're supposed to be pouring out your heart, and that needs to happen in a natural way."
"What's my mother tongue?"
"The language your mother speaks."
"I've never spoken with my mother."
"A mother is a mother, even if you never speak with her."
"I don't think my mother spoke Russian."
"Ivan was your mother. Have you forgotten? The age of female mothers is over."

Lindy Note: Yoko Tawada was born in Japan and moved to Germany when she was 22. This novel was first published in German. 3y
saresmoore I appreciate your note. Is this book as weird as it seems? 3y
Lindy @saresmoore Yes, it's about as weird as you would expect memoirs from the viewpoint of circus animals to be. It's also funny and philosophical. I'm really enjoying it. 3y
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saresmoore Haha! I think I'll have to give it a try. It's a concept that could be totally ruined if the author was trying too hard to be clever, but her approach seems so dry and matter-of-fact as to make it actually clever in its nonchalance. 3y
Lindy @saresmoore There's the initial relaxing of your critical mind that's required, where you submit to the premise, but that off-kilter feeling keeps popping up because Tawada sustains the sensation of viewing things from a nonhuman perspective, while at the same time emphasizing commonalities between mammal species. 3y
saresmoore What a fascinating genre breach! 3y
43 likes4 stack adds6 comments
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Lindy
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The second time I visited the supermarket, my nose was immediately confounded by all the many smells. I couldn't remember where the salmon was. This supermarket was selling far too many absurd, unnecessary items instead of offering only what mattered - salmon.

PatriciaU 😂😂😂😂 3y
rabbitprincess The Museum of Nature in Ottawa has a "bear grocery store" where you have to get the bear enough calories for hibernation, and one of the things you can buy is salmon. ? 3y
Lindy @rabbitprincess Ha! I bet it's a LOT of salmon. 3y
rabbitprincess @Lindy It actually sets a limit on how many of your calories can come from salmon; if you scan it too many times the cash register goes BUZZ and says "Seasonal Item" ? 3y
37 likes4 comments
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Lindy
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Those who use the circus's rear entrance, she said, would wind up backstage among the artistes.
I'd never heard the word "artiste" before. The word inflamed my imagination. Any fire my mother was trying to keep me away from always inspired my burning interest.

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Lindy
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Man needs paper. The pages don't have to be all that big, and preferably not as huge as the snowfields on which polar bears write their lives.

35 likes1 stack add
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Lindy
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"Were you ever in Canada?" I asked him.
"No."
"Do you know what sort of country it is?"
"A very cold one."
When I heard that, I wanted to move to Canada right away.

LeahBergen 😂😂 3y
32 likes1 comment