3 STREETS by Yoko Tawada
Translated by Margaret Mitsutani
A novella in substance if not exactly in form, these conceptually linked stories make for a great primer/introduction/refresher to the sublime weirdness that is Yoko Tawada. Each one is named after - and takes place in - a street in Berlin, the city Tawada has called home for almost twenty years.
The narrator of the first story, Kollwitzstrasse, seems to be turning into a crane. She meets the ghost of a little boy (or is he a robot?) who begs her to buy him his favourite sweets. It’s magical realist speculative fiction done right as people appear from pavement cracks, the city goes monochrome and the narrator despairs her own transformation and the little boy’s health.
Fans of the Russian Futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky will delight in Majakowskiring, in which his ghost visits the street named after him. I suspect I missed a lot but still enjoyed the central conceit and Tawada’s reflections on what constitutes a city.
And, finally, Tawada reckons with the parallel wartime histories of her two homelands - Japan and Germany - in the brilliant closer, Puskin Allee, where the stone soldiers of a war memorial come to life and destroy everything in their path.
3 Streets by Yoko Tawada (Tr. Margaret Mitsutani)
New Directions, 2022