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Yoko Tawada, A Writer Split In Two

Japanese-German writer Yoko Tawada
Japanese-German writer Yoko Tawada
Ric Wasserman

STOCKHOLM — Some say Japanese-born Yoko Tawada who has adopted Germany as her home is a writer with a split cultural personality. After 30 years, she still struggles to reconcile the differences.

“Like two personalities, they don’t want to be one,” she says. “They didn’t want to tell one story. I couldn’t put them together. It’s impossible.”

In Sweden to launch her 23rd book, The Naked Eye, the award-winning author says the story has links to her own experience traveling by train from Japan to Germany. “I came to Europe by the Trans-Siberian Railway,” she says. “It is a slow way. It’s not like flying to Europe. You’re in Siberia and all the other cities and places that are between Japan and Europe.”

Somehow, Tawada has stayed in limbo, between two worlds — Asia and the West. After moving to Germany, she saw that Germans looked at things very differently than the Japanese. “In Germany, people try to understand the world as a problem, and they criticize it and they try to find the answer, how to change it.”

Not so in Japan, a country where Confucianism has strong roots, and where people tend to take a different, softer approach. There, Tawada says, “You try to understand the universe as one, and you are a part of something that you criticize.”

There are many examples. In the West, anger is often directed at inanimate objects, Tawada says. Not in Japan. “In Japan, tradition tools — like a pen for the writer, or knife for the cook — they have respect for those tools. So you can’t say ‘stupid pen!’ If something is stupid, it’s you, not the knife or the pen.”

Standing in line at the book signing is Niklas Broman, a longtime admirer of Tawada’s work on the subject of alienation in society. “As a European myself, I can relate to it. Maybe because I sometimes feel like I don’t fit in.”

For the launch of her book, the German Goethe Institute is hosting a reading and discussion, the sort of event that would never happen in Japan. For the Japanese, reading is a personal experience, not something shared with an audience, Tawada says. “In Japan, the readers don’t ask questions to the author. So you never have to answer questions. You just write.”

Tawada has inspired many others to write, among them one of her readers, Miniko Vaneuler. “I also cherish a dream of writing something in Swedish and Japanese, and I actually translate and interpret sometimes,” Vaneuler says. “So I wondered if I could try — as she did.”

Tawada says it is difficult to write in two langauges, but there are special rewards for the effort. “When I think in the German language, it’s like a dialogue. There are two people in my head, and they’re discussing something. In Japanese, it’s a monologue.”

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How A Xi Jinping Dinner In San Francisco May Have Sealed Mastercard's Arrival In China

The credit giant becomes only the second player after American Express to be allowed to set up a bank card-clearing RMB operation in mainland China.

Photo of a hand holding a phone displaying an Union Pay logo, with a Mastercard VISA logo in the background of the photo.

Mastercard has just been granted a bank card clearing license in China.

Liu Qianshan


It appears that one of the biggest beneficiaries from Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to San Francisco was Mastercard.

The U.S. credit card giant has since secured eagerly anticipated approval to expand in China's massive financial sector, having finally obtained long sought approval from China's central bank and financial regulatory authorities to initiate a bank card business in China through its joint venture with its new Chinese partner.

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Through a joint venture in China between Mastercard and China's NetsUnion Clearing Corporation, dubbed Mastercard NUCC, it has officially entered mainland China as an RMB currency clearing organization. It's only the second foreign business of its kind to do so following American Express in 2020.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the development is linked to Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting on Nov. 15 with U.S. President Joe Biden in San Francisco, part of a two-day visit that also included dinner that Xi had with U.S. business executives.

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