Yoko Tawada’s new novel, The Emissary, is a breathtakingly lighthearted meditation on mortality. After suffering a massive, irreparable disaster, Japan cuts itself off from the world. Children are born so weak they can barely walk; the only people with any get-up-and-go are the elderly. Mumei lives with his always worried great-grandfather Yoshiro, and they carry on a day-to-day routine in what could be viewed as a post-Fukushima time. Mumei may be frail and gray-haired, but he is a beacon of hope: full of wit and free of self-pity. Deftly turning inside out the dystopian scenario, Yoko Tawada creates an irrepressibly funny, playfully joyous novel, with a legerdemain uniquely her own.