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Memoirs of a Polar Bear
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Memoirs of a Polar Bear

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3.42  ·  Rating details ·  1,192 ratings  ·  209 reviews
Memoirs of a Polar Bear stars three generations of talented writers and performers―who happen to be polar bears.

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
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Paperback, 252 pages
Published November 8th 2016 by New Directions (first published 2014)
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Callum McAllister
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Polar bears, Cold War era East German setting, beautiful language. Ticks all the boxes.

Favourite thing was how a lot of the time it was basically a normal story except the main characters happened to be polar bears -- which also seemed to be inconsequential information most of the time. It was like they'd have to occasionally be like "well it's quite warm in Germany because I'm a polar bear" and the other characters would be all "huh, life is confounding".
Anne
Nov 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Such a strange and peculiar book. I loved Part 1 best of all, it read like an extended metaphor and political commentary on humanity. Part 2 was like some strange fever dream, with some wonderfully striking passages, but Part 3 was just sad. Overall though, I enjoyed this book. Polar bear narrators for the win!
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Sep 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: translated
I suppose this contains a lot of veiled commentary. Take real people and make them polar bears or take polar bears and give them inconsistent human abilities for... some reason. This was very illogical and very contradictory. I try to rationalize everything I read, so magical realism does not work so well for me.

Really it's how contradictory the story could be that left me scratching my head. What's the use of establishing a fact like "This polar bear can talk" then wiping it to say "it can't co
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Akylina
Review at The Literary Sisters.

Yoko Tawada is a Japanese author who, in her early twenties, moved to Germany in order to study and has been living there since. A rather prolific author, Tawada writes in both German and Japanese and her works are steadily becoming more and more known worldwide. As a Japanese woman living in Europe, the perspective she offers through her writing is truly unique and very fascinating, as it perfectly captures the feelings of expats without becoming overly dramatic.

M
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Ms.pegasus
Feb 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: review in THE ECONOMIST
Gabriel García Márquez once wrote about the publication of his first story. He left it with the receptionist at El Espectador, too abashed to meet directly with the editor Eduardo Zalamea. Two weeks later he chanced to discover his story featured prominently in the publication. Elated, he desperately searched in vain for five centavos in order to purchase a copy. His dejection was alleviated only by the last minute acquisition of a cast-off copy of El Espectador begged from a stranger who was do ...more
Cheryl
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Ack, I wasn't supposed to add books to this shelf! But I won this as a prize for the winter readathon at my library, and it does look interesting enough to read, so ok.

Read at the most superficial level, the blurb reminds me of the picturebook stories about Larry, Irving, and Muktuk by Daniel Pinkwater. The cover reminds me very superficially of The Night Circus. But of course I'll try to read it for its own merits, whenever I get around to it.
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Ok done.
Ambitious... almost succeeds
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Antonio Delgado
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Mesmerizing! Tawada's surrealistic novel explores human rights and animal rights, and what defines being human or an animal toward an understanding of our interconnected relationship as inhabitants of this planet.
Ally
Mar 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Trying to categorize, or even fully understand, MEMOIRS OF A POLAR BEAR is an exercise in frustration and futility. On the surface (and on the back cover) it is advertised as the fictional memoirs of three generations in a family of polar bears. However, what is really going on is far stranger, more complex, and more muddled than I ever anticipated.

Despite the straightforwardness of the premise - fictional memoirs of polar bears - I found the actual story very difficult to make sense of. It is
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Leah Rachel von Essen
Review originally published at While Reading and Walking.

Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada ended up being an interesting but ultimately inaccessible book about three generations of polar bears who seem to dip in and out of the human world and reflect on Berlin as it existed over different decades. All three generations—the unnamed grandmother matriarch, the performer Tosca, and her son Knut—dream of the North Pole and somehow end up telling their life stories.

There is at least one review g
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Lynn
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: review, dnf
I try to be fair in my reviews but sometimes I can't find a single nice thing to say about a book. The story was so unclear that all I could focus on was how confused I am.

At first I thought it was just hard to understand because you're suddenly immersed in the world of a polar bear. The further I got into the book, I realized that no, the story contradicts itself over and over.

The grandmother's (I don't even remember her name) story was centered around her experiences as a polar bear writing h
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Hulyacln
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yoko Tawada büyülü gerçekçiliğe çekiyor okurunu.Hem de üç kuşak kutup ayısının kendi anlattıkları hikayeleriyle.
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Üç kutup ayısı da konuşabiliyor,düşünüyor ve en önemlisi çevrelerindeki tehlikenin farkına varıyor.
.
Sovyetlerden,Doğu Berlin’e oradan Kanada’ya uzanıyor yolculuk.Ve bu yolculukta sansüre,şiddete,ayrımcılığa değiniyor.Kutup ayıları algılamakta zorluk çekiyor neden sirkte yaşadıklarını,neden iki ayak üzerinde durabilmek için ateşle tehdit edildiklerini,kutupta yaşaması gerekirken dört d
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Taka
Strange, poetic, unique--

I like weird, but I'm picky. I only like certain kinds of weirdness, and I love Yoko Tawada's weirdness. It's not the weirdness of Marquez, or of Flannery O'Connor, or more recently of Kelly Link. Not surrealism or magical realism or fantasy either. It's something else. Or all of them combined. A dreamy logic that straddles all those genres, maybe. It's realistic and historical, but surreal and magical. At times the narrative veers toward realism, then veers away to fant
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Ravi
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very unusual book with deep reflections on the command economies of eastern europe through the narrative of a circus trainer and three generations of bears, an unnamed bear, her daughter, Tosca and her grandson, Knut. The author uses the narrative of bears to reflect on many philosophical and political issues but you can also enjoy the story purely for its wonderful and evocative writing. She really gives the reader a sense of alienation felt by the residents of Russia and East Germany, both h ...more
Ipek
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Power though the few "what the hell is going on" moments. It took me a while to catch up with the story, but once you're through the looking glass, it is magical.
Vilis
Sep 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Īsti nesaprotu, cik nopietni romāns ir domāts, bet lasīt bija forši, ja nu vienīgi brīžiem tā pārāk mīlīgi.
Elli (The Bibliophile)
I’m afraid I didn’t really get on with this book. That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy reading it at times. I am not really sure what to say about it, to be honest!
Larissa
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
A narrative that traces three generations of biographer Polar Bears is a great premise for a book—a playful and somewhat absurdist setup that allows for all sorts of inventive explorations of Otherness and migration. Cleverly, however, Tawada doesn't overly commit herself to the metaphor and/or turn the book into a total 1 to 1 allegory, which allows the story to range a bit further afield than one might otherwise expect and also to dip into other themes: motherhood, maternal instinct, and matri ...more
Fuat
Nov 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hayatı kutup ayısı gözünden okuyalım gençler.
Andrew
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully written book about 3 polar bears and their lives. If you don't like magic realism or a lack of logic will bother you, stay away. Really though, it's a book about writing and talking polar bears, so I'm not sure why you would expect anything else!

I appreciated that it was extremely original and perhaps even a little challenging. A very satisfying reading experience that was at times funny, touching, and sad.
Meltem Sağlam
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Önemli mesajlar içeren, üç yıldız başlayan, fakat dört yıldız tamamlanan bir metin. Sevimli ve hüzünlü bir hikaye. Beğendim.

“… Doğa insanlara haklar tanımış olamazdı, çünkü haklar doğal değildi. Friedrich, “İnsanlar insan haklarına sahipse, hayvanlara da hayvan haklarını tanımalıdırlar,” dedi. “Ama daha dün et yemişken nasıl savunabilirim bunu? Bu soruyu sonuna dek düşünecek kadar yürekli değilim…”, sf; 52.
brian
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
bizarre and very funny. but the third story wasn't as good as the first two, imo
Xandria
The fun thing about Memoirs of a Polar Bear is that it includes 2 real-life polar bears: Tosca and Knut. Keep that in mind when you read the story (I think it's a great tie-in to reality).

3 stars because I often felt a disconnect and found myself quickly reading just to get finished. But the prose gets a 5 star rating from me. Tawada is a stunning writer and uses language in ways that I have never seen before. Her prose is lush and you can just fall deeply into it. Also props to the translator.
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Sara
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't know how I feel about this book. It confused me and saddened me, but it was well written and I finished it because I needed to know how it would end. I loved the characters, the bears and the people/animals around them. The blurring of reality and fantasy, intrigued me and confounded me. I wanted it to be true. It also showed how conflicting human emotions can be. I found out only after I finished the book, that this is a "memoir". Knut was a real bear. You can look it up and see what ha ...more
Elke Koepping
Höchst skurril. Ein bisschen in der Tradition von Gregor von Rezzori oder sogar Irmtraud Morgner: Tierwesen bevölkern die Welt und leben und handeln genau wie ein Mensch an ihrer Stelle. Ich gestehe, ich fand die Sprache zu distanziert und die Geschichte zu wenig interessant, um es bis zum Ende zu lesen. Bin ca. bis zur Hälfte gekommen und habe es jetzt weggelegt.
Jess
Sep 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own, 2017
I felt pretty meh on this book until the last section – Knut's story. It's a heavily allegorical and metaphorical novel about exploitation, politics, and the complexity of disenfranchisement, but I had a hard time appreciating the characters until Knut. Looking forward to chatting about this one at book club!
Kelsey
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book was very odd.
Jennifer Croft
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic, particularly Chapters One and Three. Brilliant translation, as always, by Susan Bernofsky. Adored this book.
Shatterlings
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: transleighteen
This is such a strange book but it’s also beautiful and weirdly moving, I loved it’s dreamy hypnotic writing. It’s an animal book for adults which is an unusual thing.
Janice
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
I thought I would find this very different read interesting. Sadly, I didn't.
Mell
I selected this book because reviews indicated it was unusual. People seemed to either love or hate it. I really liked it, but found it a bit unevenly written. The narrative is incredibly moving and thought provoking.

I'm not entirely sure how to label this novel-
maybe magical realism? The bears in all three sections do things like write, read, and talk to other people and animals. The language and words within the writing are exquisite, some of the most lyrically poetic prose I have read. It's
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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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“I always feel myself being thrust back into loneliness when someone tells me it's cold on a hot day. It isn't good to talk so much about the weather — weather is a highly personal matter, and communication on the subject inevitably fails.” 5 likes
“The concept of human rights had been invented by people who were thinking only of human beings” 2 likes
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