Yoko Tawada's recent writings about the disasters in Japan of 2011 engage with the translatability of catastrophes. How can one translate disasters in ways that prevent “othering” and “isolating” them? How can one interpret disasters as products of cultural translation and knowledge exchange? Tawada's texts frame disasters as islands, as closed areas, which obstruct communication. As a result of translation and the islands' historical and geopolitical interconnections, Tawada's “disaster islands” remain, however, only partly isolated. They are constantly disturbed by outsiders' attempts to observe, to understand; by appeals for aid; and by the surrounding waters that link the island with the world. This article unfolds Tawada's poetic model for translating disasters and its epistemological dimensions in relation to futurity, theology, and geopolitics.

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