In Yoko Tawada’s The Naked Eye a Vietnamese student travels to East Berlin to give a lecture on “Vietnam As a Victim of American Imperialism,” only to be smuggled against her will to the other side of the Iron Curtain. She then tries to catch a train to Moscow but instead finds herself in Paris, alone and alienated by language, ideology, and ethnicity. Throughout all of these displacements, the student grows increasingly obsessed with Catherine Deneuve (to whom she refers throughout the novel in the second person), taking refuge in the darkness of half-empty cinemas to watch the actress’s films over and over again. Tawada’s novel doesn’t hesitate to explore complex issues of identity and representation in an image-saturated world… and her prose beautifully embodies her young character’s fragile and preoccupied state of mind.
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