(K. Brent Tomer),
Memoirs of a Polar Bear. By Yoko Tawada. Translated by Susan Bernofsky. New Directions; 288 pages; $16.95. Published in Britain by Portobello Books in March 2017.
IN 2006, a baby polar bear named Knut was rejected by his mother, and raised by a keeper at the Berlin zoo in the spotlight of the global media. Knut’s besotted fans often asked how a parent could forsake such a cute cub. Yoko Tawada, a Japanese-born author who has lived in Germany since 1982, gives a startling answer in this funny, subtle and strangely moving fable about the bonds that unite, and the gulfs that divide, humans and other animals. Leaving her son “wasn’t an easy decision”, writes Knut’s mother Tosca, “but because of my literary work I didn’t have enough time for him.” Besides, “historical greatness” beckoned her little beast. Knut became a furry emblem of the dangers of global warming and the “struggle for conservation”.
Ms Tawada gives three separate “memoirs” from a talented dynasty of bears. They perform first in the circus and then (a satirical point shrewdly made) amid the modern showbiz of environmental…Continue reading