Yōko Tawada’s book Scattered All Over The Earth is set in a future where Japan (the land of sushi) has given way to the ocean and its rising tides. It manages to be both a story of climate refugees raising questions of national identity, as well as a poetic homage to languages. She has lived in Germany for decades and even writes in both Japanese and German, and I can’t help but imagine how her experience of coming to Germany in the 1980s has influenced this book.
I still remember how we bought this book last November in MARUZEN Marounochi, next to Tokyo station, with its endless shelves of books, and how we spent a good few hours browsing through all sorts of niche books on trains and transport, until we finally reached the large section of English books on the top floor with many translated editions of Japanese authors.
I’m also still looking for one of her other books, Time Differences, but haven’t been able to find it anywhere.
I have nothing to sell. The only thing I deal in is language.
When you think about it, since we’re all earthlings, no one can be an illegal resident of earth. So why are there more and more illegal aliens every year? If things keep on this way, someday the whole human race will be illegal.
I stopped thinking about what would happen next. The days when you could design your future were over.
I’d heard that if you chewed rice long enough it would get sweet and turn into sake, and the same’s true for languages. And I never got a bellyache from trying to digest too much at once.