Memoirs of a Polar Bear

Yoko Tawada

Published: 2 March 2017
Trade Paperback, Demy HB
138x216mm, 256 pages
ISBN: 9781846276316

Other Editions


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Published: 2 November 2017
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 256 pages
ISBN: 9781846276323

Ebook Available

Translated from the German by the Susan Bernofsky


Someone tickled me behind my ears, under my arms. I curled up, became a full moon, and rolled on the floor. I may also have emitted a few hoarse shrieks. Then I lifted my rump to the sky and tucked my head beneath my belly: Now I was a sickle moon, still too young to imagine any danger. Innocent, I opened my anus to the cosmos and felt it in my bowels.

A bear, born and raised in captivity, is devastated by the loss of his keeper; another finds herself performing in the circus; a third sits down one day and pens a memoir which becomes an international sensation, and causes her to flee her home.

Through the stories of these three bears, Tawada reflects on our own humanity, the ways in which we belong to one another and the ways in which we are formed. Delicate and surreal, Memoirs of a Polar Bear takes the reader into foreign bodies and foreign climes, and immerses us in what the New Yorker has called 'Yoko Tawada's magnificent strangeness'.

About the author


Memoirs of a Polar Bear [is] philosophical, political and often profound... rich in physical sensation and whimsy, yet the intense emotion and powerful sense of justice suggest Tawada believes that engagement is the most effective method of communicating the distorted mirror through which we look at the world’ Eileen Battersby



Hauntingly strange... enchanting... deliciously whimsical and playful... it's through the eyes of [Tawada's] polar bears that we see humanity most clearlyLucy Scholes

Magnificent... A heartfelt read ****

Surreal and beguiling... fizzing with ideas... funny and outrageous... Memoirs of a Polar Bear dazzles. The final paragraph, swirling with memory and snow evokes the calm gravity of Joyce's ending to The DeadLee Langley

‘A surreal exploration of the bear with us... A work that plays with the fantastical and allegorical, the polar bear ultimately becomes both the grandiose repository of human desires and a creature nestled among us... Tawada mine[s] the rich historical seam as [she] seeks to understand the bears in our mind. It seems to me that the worlds of anthropology and fiction aren't that far apart’ Tim Flannery

‘Disconcerting and exhilaratingly strange. With a deft wave of her literary wand, Tawada dissolves the frontier between humans and animals, disorientating us so that we can be more properly oriented towards ourselves’ Charles Foster

‘Enchanting... an absorbing work from a fascinating mind’

‘In chronicling the lives of three generations of uniquely talented polar bears, the fantastically gifted Yoko Tawada has created an unforgettable meditation on celebrity, art, incarceration, and the nature of consciousness. Tawada is, far and away, one of my favourite writers, working today - thrilling, discomfiting, uncannily beautiful, like no one you have ever read before. Memoirs of a Polar Bear is Tawada at her best: humanity, as seen through the eyes of these bears, has never looks quite so stirringly strange.’ Laura van den Berg, author

‘Playful and fascinating... Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, sometimes alienating, but always deeply intimate’ Dominic O'Key

‘Tawada's bears are embodiments of what it means to be a human being, full of wonder and curiosity, and desires limited by circumstances’ Todd Shimoda

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