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Japan-born writer Yoko Tawada wins prestigious U.S. literature award for 'Kentoshi'


The English version of “Kentoshi,” or “The Emissary,” a work by Japanese writer Yoko Tawada, has won the U.S. National Book Award for Translated Literature.

The National Book Awards are one of the most distinguished literature prizes in the United States. The winners of this year’s awards were announced Wednesday local time.

Tawada, 58, who lives in Germany, expressed joy at winning the award to reporters at an event at Waseda University in Tokyo on Thursday.

“I take my winning of the award as a message that it is necessary to look at the world, at a time when the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump takes a stance of not giving consideration to other countries under his ‘America First’ policy,” she said.

“Kentoshi,” a dystopian novel, depicts an elderly man and his great-grandchild living in a difficult situation in Japan after a catastrophe that looks like the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Tawada was born in Tokyo in 1960. She moved to Germany after graduating.

She writes in Japanese and German. Tawada was awarded the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 1993 for “Inumukoiri” (“The Bridegroom Was a Dog”). In 2011 she won the Noma Literary Prize for “Yuki no Renshusei” (“Trainee of Snow”).

Tawada received the Kleist Prize in 2016, becoming the first Japanese to be given the German prize.

According to Kodansha, which published the Japanese version of “Kentoshi,” the National Book Award for translation was suspended after running from 1967 to 1983. It was newly established this year and now covers both fiction and nonfiction works.

In 1982 the translated literature award was given to “In the Shade of Spring Leaves,” a translated version of “Takekurabe” by 19th century female Japanese author Higuchi Ichiyo, and to “The Ten Thousand Leaves,” a translation of the “Manyoshu,” a collection of ancient Japanese poetry.