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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Double Exile - Yoko Morgenstern

Yoko Morgenstern’s sensitive exploration of art and political responsibility, of internal and external perspectives on times of crisis, and of the interconnectedness of and analogies between different (national) histories is stunning and makes Double Exile an essential contribution to the literary landscape of the new millennium.

-- Maria Löschnigg, Professor of English and Canadian Literature, University of Graz, Austria

oko Morgenstern is originally from Tokyo. She started creative writing while she was living in Canada. Her short stories and essays have appeared in The Montreal Review, The Globe and Mail, Salon II, and The Great Lakes Review, among others. Her Japanese translation of The Printmaker’s Daughter by the Canadian novelist Katherine Govier was published in Tokyo in June 2014.

Yoko learned English and Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. She took two ESL courses from 1997 to 1998, Academic Writing in 2008, and also participated in the U of T Summer Writing School in 2008.

She received a BA in Political Science from the University of Tsukuba, and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Journalism from Sheridan College. Currently she is at work on an MA in English and American Literature at the University of Bamberg.

Double Exile is Yoko’s debut novel. It is a story centering on a young woman’s travels to Germany, in hopes of obtaining the necessary information she needs to complete her thesis.

Ayumi has left her family and friends in Japan, and is on a mission to uncover as much as she can about the trials and tribulations of the German writer Hans Carossa. 

During the Nazi occupation, Hans refused to leave Germany as he did not wish to become an exile. Ayumi is hoping to dig up all of the facts concerning Hans, and finally get to the bottom of why he was labelled a controversial figure in history.

During her research, Ayumi encounters Alex, an old man who claims to have personally known Hans. Believing that she has hit a gold mine, Ayumi devotes the rest of her stay in Germany to Alex. As she unravels the harrowing truths surrounding Hans, the narrative is drawn into the past where Hans narrates his own story.

Interweaving the past and present, Ayumi struggles to not only understand Hans’ role in the war, but her own misguided reasons for coming to Germany. As Alex and Ayumi grow closer, Ayumi soon unearths several shocking truths that force her to not only reassess her own relationship with Alex but ultimately, her own relationship with her past and also the dark side of Japanese history.

As for the Canadian/American context; Hans and his Jewish friend in Canada correspond by using underground mail service. The model of this character is a Toronto-based Jewish journalist who is a survivor of Nazi Germany as well as the imprisonment by the Canadian government.

Yoko’s novel has earned serious praise from all quarters. Katherine Govier, novelist and a passionate multiculturalism activist, observes, “Double Exile is a compact and moving tale that sheds light on the political choices made by those writers who stayed home in Nazi Germany. Morgenstern’s straightforward, clean style lets the story tell itself. Ayomi, backpacker from Tokyo, comes alive with her honest drive to understand betrayal and loyalty --in their lives and her own. Yoko Morgenstern is a debut novelist unafraid of complex questions, and gifted with the simple touch.”

Says Laura Lush, a poet and writer, “Many have written about the rise of Nazi Germany and the indelible mark it has left in history. But none has told the story of the plight of the German Jewish writers so well as Yoko Morgenstern has in Double Exile.  In a trifecta of countries, time, and cultures, Morgenstern weaves a spellbinding psychological drama that innocently begins when a graduate student from Japan comes to Germany to search out the story of Hans Carossa, one of Germany’s greatest but seemingly most forgotten modernist writers. In prose that brims with intelligence and humanity, Morgenstern shows how Carossa and his contemporaries struggle with their decision to stay or flee Nazi Germany, a decision that results in equally unfavourable fates—accusations of pro-Nazi alliances if they stay or internment in countries such as Canada if they leave.” 

Yoko's debut novel is being launched in Toronto on July 22 at the Japan Foundation, Toronto. Click here for details: Double Exile Book Release

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