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The Naked Eye

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  229 ratings  ·  25 reviews
A precocious Vietnamese high school student — known as the pupil with “the iron blouse”—in Ho Chi Minh City is invited to an International Youth Conference in East Berlin. But, in East Berlin, as she is preparing to present her paper in Russian on “Vietnam as a Victim of American Imperialism,” she is abruptly kidnapped and taken to a small town in West Germany. After a str ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by New Directions (first published 2004)
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Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Brian by: Proustitute

In her Translator’s Note that prefaces the novel, Susan Bernofsky explains that the author’s creation of this hypnotic work occurred in two languages: Tawada wrote the text in both German and Japanese – changing between languages as the story unfolded to her. The result was an arrival “…simultaneously at two complete manuscripts.” Bernofsky’s translation into English of the version I read was based solely on the German version of Tawada’s novel. And it is a perfect approach to a novel writ on th
May 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned, read-for-uni
do you know those weird wannabe art films where the characters just don't make any sense and you leave the cinema muttering whatthefuckwhatthefuck under your breath?

Well, this describes my experience reading The Naked Eye quite well. Not a single character in this book made any sense to me, least of all the main character. Maybe it was because everything that happened in this book is so far removed from my own reality that I simply cannot comprehend it. But that's not it. A good book will sweep you up and ma
Jeff Jackson
Jan 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Rating doesn't capture my experience of reading this. There are brilliant sections on language and foreignness, along with compelling fictional essays on the films on Catherine Deneuve. But the frustrating picaresque plot often feels more contrived than surreal and makes the main character seem like the author's puppet. And then again, a lovely ending.
Natalie (CuriousReader)
The Naked Eye by Yoko Tawada is the story of a young Vietnamese woman traveling to Berlin in order to participate in a lecture - only to be swept away to Bochum by a German man, later ending up in Paris with no money, family, or safety net to fall back on. It’s quite the whirlwind of a story - this woman, Anh is the name she gives herself, travels city to city, never settling down because she doesn’t have a legal presence in France and the further she gets from her starting point, the further aw ...more
Miss Bookiverse
Das war einfach nicht mein Fall. Es liest sich leicht, aber oft fand ich es auf inhaltlicher Ebene sehr unangenehm (besonders die Parts in Bochum) oder sogar langweilig, was vor allem auf die endlosen Beschreibungen von Filmen/Filmszenen mit Catherine Deneuve zutrifft. Ich kenne keinen der erwähnten Filme, vielleicht macht das etwas aus, und halte es irgendwie für Quatsch in einem Roman immer wieder Szenen aus anderen Werken wiederzugeben, obwohl die Vermischung von Kino und Realität, welche die ...more
Sep 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Daisy by: Kinokuniya Bookstore in Little Tokyo
Shelves: ddr, germany, vietnam, france
This was an ambitious exercise, I imagine, to write. And it's not easy to read, sometimes tedious, sometimes poetic, sometimes impossible. It's almost a filmography of Catherine Deneuve told through the experiences of a naive, hallucinating, displaced Vietnamese woman. Every chapter is the title of a Deneuve movie and then what happens to the heroine echoes the plot or theme or symbols in that movie. Although this is a translation (the author wrote parts of this in Japanese and parts of it in Ge ...more
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
This book, while it veers dangerously close to my least favorite kind of writing (stupid crazy people, usually women, doing stupid shit for no reason at all), this was interesting enough to keep me from focusing on that. It (vaguely) follows the story of a young Vietnamese woman who goes to East Berlin, gets kind of smuggled over the border into West Germany against her will, and jumps a train to Paris, where she spends most of the rest of the book wandering around and watching movies, obsessed ...more
Oct 21, 2009 rated it liked it
An ethereal but uncompromising book. More poetry than prose.
Noah Appelbaum
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it

At one point, I was on the verge of bailing on this book because it just didn't seem very good. At one point, I was thinking very explicitly about how I was going to rate this book a 4, and composing a glowing review in my head.

While reading this, I lamented to a friend that the coolest thing about this book was that the manuscript was written in two alternating languages (German and Japanese), and that it was a shame that basically nobody would ever be able to read t
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This novel is a slow burn. I got about halfway through on my first attempt, then returned to it weeks later and finished it. After finishing it, I sat in its presence for a few moments and knew I had to read it again.
It’s the story of a young Vietnamese woman who explores an experience shaped by trauma and by the ideologies of her communist childhood and capitalist adulthood. As she seeks out contact with the world through the films of Catherine Deneuve, the personas of the actress begin to int
Mina Widding
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Masterly. Tawada har något som jag knappast mött hos någon annan. Konstnärligt framställt, allt spelar roll, och ändå inte, fast i slutändan gör det nog det. Många många lager, och många teman i samma berättelse, som att läsa flera böcker i samma. Och dessutom filmerna hon konverserar med, briljant!
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Quite good. Ms. Tawada may be one of the best novelists of our time.
Isabella Kratynski
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: translation
There's something beautifully naïve about Tawada's writing; that is, the naïveté of her characters. It takes a sophisticated mastery of language to convey this simplicity so effortlessly.

We see everything through the eyes of a young communist-raised Vietnamese woman, whose name may or may not be Anh. When she arrives at a youth conference in East Berlin, understandably everything feels foreign — German and at least Occidental — but slightly familiar — Russian and communist.

I always
Jan 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
A perfectly confusing book the point to which I fail to see. Our heroine Anh (her initial false name of the moment), is a young academically talented Vietnamese girl sent to East Berlin to give a speech at an International Youth Conference. Prior to presenting her speech, she is gotten drunk and kidnapped by a young man who takes her to Bochum, West Germany where he keeps her to be the mother of his children. She eventually leaves (escapes does not seem the appropriate term since she has a great ...more
Jan 13, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting introduction to the bilingual Tawada, whose body of work (at least that so far translated into English for New Directions) seems to all deal with a certain amount of flickering identity and strange liminal states. The episodic plot never allows us to really care for our narrator but at the same time, I think it’s hard not to be curious about what will happen next. Yet interspersed with storytelling are sometimes whole recitations of plot of Catherine Deneuve films, except seen thr ...more
Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I loved Anh, the main character in this novel. She is a young Vietnamese and promising Communist party member who suddenly finds herself in the West. She then embarks on a disorienting, but transformational adventure-of-sorts. As an orthodox Marxist, her point-of-view of the postmodern West is incisive, original, as well as funny. Yoko Tawada's writing style for Ahn is figuratively immediate. She doesn't waste her time describing through explication, instead she creates original and spontaneous ...more
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Вообще я не сразу поняла, что я ее люблю. Спасибо Лене, которая снабдила меня этим романом. Йоко Тавада писала его то на немецком, то на японском, одновременно переводила с одного языка на другой. И в конце было две полноценных рукописи на двух языках. Я не знаю, что-то магическое. По сути, ни история, ни манера изложения мне не близка - но вдруг находятся слова чтобы рассказать и о себе, и сразу на нескольких языках - ее читая.


To tell the truth I am many times more comf
Nhan Heaux
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Found it interesting enough to finish. But I was mostly irritated by the main character Anh and her delirious perspectives and blurring the lines between whatever movie she is obsessed about in the moment and whatever situation that the character finds herself in. The ambiguity that the novel operates in seems to be by design with the first person perspective always being restricted from having the ability to adequately communicate with the world around her. There's something to be drawn from th ...more
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is the strangest book I have ever read... And I can't decide if it is just awkward translation, or trust terrible... Maybe I just don't get it... Should make for an interesting book club convo... If anyone else makes it through!
Feb 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: japan
After reading a disturbing, multi-voiced text like this with an odd ending you want to create meaning for it. You want to explain it and find a message, but with psychoanalysis being such a weak angle for this text the conclusion was well "maybe it was all in her head."
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
I love how the author put meaning in every sentence, coloring each characters' thoughts and actions, and at the same time invoking readers with vague-like yet detailed and meaningful expressions. It's like every sentence is a quote by itself.
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good book, I like it!
Center for the Art of Translation
We excerpted this in Strange Harbors.
Yelena Moskovich
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dec 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Or maybe two stars. It gripped me in bits and pieces but left me with nothing.
Alex Molineux
rated it really liked it
Apr 14, 2019
rated it really liked it
Mar 01, 2015
Priscilla Layne
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Feb 17, 2014
rated it liked it
Apr 30, 2012
rated it really liked it
Mar 06, 2019
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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
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