The Emissary

Something terrible has happened in Japan, and the country has cut itself off from the world—preventing travel but also excising words that seem even vaguely foreign, remaking both geography and language at once. The event has scrambled bodies and flipped mortality around on its head: the elderly are unable to die, celebrating birthday after birthday with despair, while their great-grandchildren are brittle, unable to walk, barely able to eat, but possessed of a crystalline peace with the world. The narrative moves swiftly from the centenarian Yoshiro, to his great-grandson Mumei, and the few, strange people who enter their lives. The translation, by Margaret Mitsutani, is so easy and lucid, I kept stopping to wonder if in fact it was written in English and not translated at all.