Enter a Yoko Tawada book and abandon the known universe.

Consider her wondrously strange subject matter: the magical-realistic story of three generations of writing polar bears who interact with human society as superstars of both literature and the circus ("Memoirs of a Polar Bear"); a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Japan where children are born ancient, both frail and wise ("The Last Children of Tokyo"); or a global journey of sexual and political awakening for a young Vietnamese high school student who finds herself abducted into West Germany before she jumps a train to Paris and eventually becomes both captivated and liberated by the movies of French actress Catherine Deneuve.

This last novel, "The Naked Eye," published in English in 2009, was written simultaneously in Tawada's native Japanese and German, her adopted language. Tawada took the Trans-Siberian Railroad as a teenager to visit Europe and, after graduating with a degree in Russian literature from Waseda University, moved to Hamburg in 1982 to work at a book distribution company.