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Where Europe Begins

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  316 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Where Europe Begins presents a collection of startling new stories by Japanese writer Yoko Tawada. Moving through landscapes of fairy tales, family history, strange words and letters, dreams, and every-day reality, Tawada's work blurs divisions between fact and fiction, prose and poetry. Often set in physical spaces as disparate as Japan, Siberia, Russia, and Germany, thes ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published October 1st 2002 by New Directions Publishing Corporation (first published January 31st 1991)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  316 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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Most of the words that came out of my mouth had nothing to do with how I felt. But at the same time I realized that my native tongue didn’t have words for how I felt either. It’s just that this never occurred to me until I’d begun to live in a foreign language.
There are some works where I must be content with the single fish I have managed to catch. The flopping thing might not make much sense, or be very pretty, or in general be anything other than weird in a way I can't wrap my head around
Olivia-Savannah  Roach
This rating is partly my fault, and I fully acknowledge this. I don't know how I managed it, but for the first time in my life, I read a book wrong. I thought it was a novel, and it's actually a short story collection. Just so you know, the synopsis on the back of my edition is not the one on Goodreads and therefore doesn't explicity state that it is a short story collection. So I'm not THAT dumb. But gosh, I felt like it when I opened my mouth to discuss in that seminar. >.>

Anyway, after realis
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Interpreters are like prostitutes that serve the occupying forces; their own countrymen hold them in contempt. It's as if the German entering my ears were something like spermatic fluid.


I had decided not to read any writing on Sundays. Instead I observed the people I saw on the street as though they were isolated letters. Sometimes two people sat down next to each other in a café, and thus, briefly, formed a word. Then they separated, in order to go off and form other words. There must have bee
Jacob Wren
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Some passages from Where Europe Begins:

If they didn’t manage the operation properly and cut off some necessary part of her, she would not be completely back. If it came to that, I could donate a body part of my own. I could give at least one. Many of the body’s organs come in twos. I have two ears. Two lungs. I think there might even be two of the uterus, but I don’t remember now.


When talking to a large company over dinner, one is not so much looking for things to say as walking along a narrow
Feb 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
You may not guess it when reading the description of Where Europe Begins by Yoko Tawada, but this is largely a collection of surreal horror stories, with only a couple exceptions. Furthermore, the horror stories that make up the bulk of the work can be remarkably disturbing.

Similar to The Blind Owl by by Sadegh Hedayat, the best descriptor of the horror stories in Where Europe Begins that I can come up with is “nightmare-like.” Events don’t progress as they should, nor does the narrator react i
Helen McClory
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some brilliant pieces on language, dislocation, identity, death, some less good - but all worth coming back to.
Will E
A collection of awesomely fucked up fever dreams and fairy tales. Extremely surrealist, but highly controlled- it all ties together in its batshit crazy way. Obsessions with being in between languages/cultures and body parts don't become repetitive throughout these stories but ties them more deeply together. Great translations except for a few majorly awkward sentences in the Japanese translations, which can be overlooked by other translation choices (in the same story) that are brilliant and cr ...more
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Re-read for class, still one of the all time greats
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Took me almost four years to come back and finish this. Two stories (“Spores” and “The Bath”) translated from Japanese by Yumi Selden. Susan Bernofsky is the translator of the others—originally written in German.
Lakis Fourouklas
Oct 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As the acclaimed director Wim Wenders points out at the forward, this book could have only been written by a Japanese. And a great book it is.
Where Europe Begins is a collection of short stories that someone, anyone really, could call postmodern. Dream and reality, fantasy and life, legend and history seem to be bounded together in harmony in these narrations. The author seems to be playing games with us and her heroes, winking an eye every now and then and saying: Nothing really is what it see
Robin Martin
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I want to give this book a 3.5, because though "I Really Liked" the writer's skill with language, I found the tales difficult and at times redundant. This is another book that I think I would appreciate much more after discussing it with other readers. Having said that, there are quite a few moments in the book that are 5-star beautiful, amazing lines, like these:

“Even a right moon can be wrong
at the wrong moment.” (Tawada, 61)

“When talking to a large company over dinner, one is not so much l
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
It's strange to appreciate the mechanics of a writer's sentences and even some of the sentiments, but to not care one bit about the subject matter, the characters or the world she created. That's how I felt while reading these short stories. The reviewers link Tawada's stories to dreams and fairytales. I agree. It's just that I felt unable to enter such dreams and fairytales, or to even care that I couldn't.
Kate Alice
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: soul-shaking

Every gorgeously observed meditation on language and self that Tawada explores in this book resonated so deeply with me. I can't recommend this book enough if you're someone who often thinks about the strangeness of language and the obscurity of life.
Oct 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Finished this one on the chinatown bus back to New York and when I closed the cover I thought the bus might lift off the road
Patrick Stirling
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Anything by Yoko Tawada was my book club selection for this month. I read the first couple of stories of this book, and "The Bridegroom Was A Dog". Her writing is amazing and very different. The stories aren't written in the usual beginning-middle-end with developmental arcs that most writing has. They're more like adult (in the sense of mature!) fairy stories, or snapshots. Language and culture are important, I think she's commenting on the way our culture and upbringing shape us, and the limit ...more
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uni-books
It all started so well!
This being a collection of short stories, it runs the risk of having some which outshine the others: in this case, it was the first story. It's so abstract and creative, it reminded me of Neil Gaiman, I loved it.
The final story was good I suppose, but sadly the rest of this book is entirely incomprehensible. I like 'weird' in a book, I really do, but to have no conceivable plot line is mind-numbingly dull and frustratingly confusing.
I'm sure these stories mean a great de
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Short stories primarily dealing with the pains of embodiment within the liminalities of translation and transit.

Volume highlights: "The Bath," "Canned Foreign," "Talisman," and "Where Europe Begins"
Apr 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Well, I’ll be one of those who would say: that’s not my story, not my cup of tea, fairytale...
Don’t get that kind of storytelling, don’t assimilate all those post-modernistic conventions.
But... the title story is great. Pity that so late and so short.
José Angel Daza
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel
It had a couple of nice short stories and some interesting highlights about the cultural and linguistic differences (especially between Japan and Germany). But, in general, I found the book a bit too disperse and difficult to engage with
Jason Payne
May 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Collection of surreal short stories by Tawada, a Japanese writer living in Berlin (she write in both Japanese and German). Some of the stories will leave readers scratching their heads, but in all this is a terrific--and disturbing--read.
Chantale P
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For articulating untranslatable mysteries. For communicating strangeness of communication.
DNF at 55 pgs (26%)

This is just not to my taste. Very surreal, a bit of body horror, no thank you. Also, boring, imo.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Sometimes other people's skulls look transparent. At such moments I fall in love."

What a gorgeous, dreamy, oddball book. <3
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
so fond of the Siberian imagination!
Patrik Sampler
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was inspired to read Where Europe Begins when a reviewer compared my own work (To the Stoning: Leftist Erotica) to that of Yoko Tawada. Where Europe Begins is a collection of short stories including two short novellas, translated into English from both German and Japanese. To be sure, something may be lost in translation, which perhaps is responsible for my feeling that pacing and syntax is somewhat 'off' in places where it might easily have been 'on'. This applies especially in the opening no ...more
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tawada can be compared to no other. Literally nothing has been lost in translation. The English version of her prose takes on a whole new, exciting world and the reader cannot help but fondle the details. Her attention to movement, identity, and beauty coupled with libidinal undertones, some quite literal, make her work unique and compelling. Tawada brings new attention to World Literature and rightly so.
May 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Tough to classify and wonderfully esoteric, this book is poetry in narrative form, translated from both German and Japanese but uniquely feminine and told in only a way a native who is a foreigner, unable to feel whole of fully welcome at either place she calls home. This is an engaging read that takes a while to process as each sentence is thought out and meaningful. A really fascinating and expertly written book that I found more lyrical than entertaining.
Stephen Douglas Rowland
Dec 12, 2016 rated it did not like it
Just fucking terrible. I've read two other Tawada collections and found them enthralling and unique. This is just filled with desperate, transparent attempts to be WEIRD for the sake of ART. I wonder if this writing is older than that in 'Bridegroom' and 'Bridge' -- I can't recommend those enough. Major disappointment.
May 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Tawada lives in Germany and is now one of the most prominent voices of both Japanese and German literature, writing in both languages. Her writing, often surreal, contains unexpected surprises on every page.
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: japan
I wouldn't actually say that this book is bad, it's just its surreal style doesn't suit me at all. I much prefer the concrete lyricism of Kyoko Mori's style as she writes about moving between two cultures.
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500 Great Books B...: Where Europe Begins: Stories - Yōko Tawada - Aubrey 1 13 Nov 21, 2014 06:24PM  

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Yōko Tawada (多和田葉子 Tawada Yōko, born March 23, 1960) is a Japanese writer currently living in Berlin, Germany. She writes in both Japanese and German.

Tawada was born in Tokyo, received her undergraduate education at Waseda University in 1982 with a major in Russian literature, then studied at Hamburg University where she received a master's degree in contemporary German literature. She received he

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