It might be obvious that Yoko Tawada is a prominent writer if you’ve already known her so many careers. But in my case, I did understand her attraction in a truly sense when thinking of how we should read her works. At any rate, let alone highly assessments towards her domestically, to our surprise, she has been honourably praised abroad, which enables her to be regarded as one of the most important writers in contemporary Japanese literature.
Trunk of Literature of Tawada is “words.” A remarkable feature is that a range of the representation of every word is extended without limits. For instance, have a look at the following passage.
“Where is the tunnel led? The direction to which our eyeballs turn is, involuntarily, front. So, the entrance of the tunnel is behind my head. When I turn to see it, whenever, ‘back’ goes ‘back.’”
The tunnel always has its entrance and its exit. But whether the entrance or the exit is according to the direction which one faces. There is no decisive meaning of the thing. As she remarked in her speech when winning a certain prize, she had to read Tanizaki’s Quicksand with book jacket since its symbol of “Quicksand” refers to quite different meaning in Germany from what is associated to it in Japan. Signifier and significant are exchangeable. Tawada relates such matters to the problem of translation.
For instance, as for a word “desk”, each of us would imagine its different form, size and colour from it, which is just ambiguity a word has in common. Besides, when we translate it into Japanese “机”, it has no common feature clearly to a English word “desk”. It is represented as the word whose letters — “d”, “e”, “s”, “k” — also have a different cultural background from Kanji. Why is desk “机”? Which word accurately represents “that furniture“? Her literature is based on such matter.