"Tenderness ... shows the world as being alive, living, interconnected"
August 9, 2020 4:23 AM   Subscribe

Olga Tokarczuk has written first-person stories, coincidentally with mild SF/F themes, e.g. "All Saints' Mountain" and "Borderland." There's also Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead (excerpt), "a suspenseful murder mystery and a powerful and profound meditation on human existence" (review). But her Nobel Prize lecture contemplates the potential "tenderness" of stories told in wide perspective, e.g. in her novel Flights (excerpt 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) and perhaps stories like "Dress Rehearsal," "The Knight," "An Evening with the Author," and "Preserves for Life." In "On the Highs and Lows of Translating Olga Tokarczuk," Jennifer Croft comments on how Tokarczuk's upcoming The Books of Jacob relates to that project. See also Croft's "When an Author You Translate Gets Death Threats" and recent status update.
posted by Wobbuffet (7 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for this post! I'm sure I heard about the Nobel and so have heard of her, but now I get to experience enough of her writing to want more.
posted by allthinky at 8:26 AM on August 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead is so, so good. Totally hermitcore.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 2:09 PM on August 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

Drive Your Plow was really, really good. Looking forward to reading more about her. Thanks for the post.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:22 PM on August 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yup, thirding the praise for Drive Your Plough. It's really well written and seems to be beautifully translated (I say seems to be because I can't read Polish and thus have never read the original).

That final link to the article about the death threats and hate mail Tokarczuk has received...oh my god. It is well worth reading and although it's not surprising, it is disheartening to hear that her efforts at truth and reconciliation being met with such hostility and hatred. It really takes guts to challenge the shining narrative a nation has created for itself, about its national character, to say "it would be in vain for my aggressive and belligerent adversaries to await a response. I will not have a conversation in a climate of threats and invectives. I encourage them instead to read and to honestly reflect on the subject of Polish history; this history is comprised not only of great and glorious moments, but also of periods of shame and disgrace. Such discussions are incredibly necessary for us to have. Better late than never.”

Now I am off to place a hold on The Books of Jacob.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:38 PM on August 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

Now I am off to place a hold on The Books of Jacob.

Buckle up for a wild ride in the best meaning! I'm Polish and fairly well acquainted with history, but reading it made my head reel. The world she evokes is stranger than the creations of most fantasy authors, and to a large extent fact-based!

As to the death threats, ill wishes and loathsome comments directed at her and her translator, although they're amplified by the right-wing hate machine which thrives under the current administration, by no means can they be explained away as its attempts to stir discord, divide people and make discussion impossible. A lot of this hate is genuine. There are still many people in Poland who think that to entertain slightest criticism of our nation is tantamount to treason, and who would be happy to turn the clock back a century. On the other hand, Tokarczuk books are available in every bookstore and people buy them and actually read them and discuss them, so I'm not giving up hope.
posted by hat_eater at 5:35 AM on August 10, 2020 [5 favorites]

Just finished Drive Your Plow myself and was thinking how it was a great discovery — of course, as with most things I found I was extremely late to the party. I'm recommending it all over the place now, though.

Really looking forward to Books of Jacob, though I haven't seen a release date for the English version yet. If the translation is anywhere near as good as Drive Your Plough's, I'll be a happy man.

Thanks for the posts and links, I learned things!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:26 PM on August 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

I had listened to the Audible for Drive Your Plow a while ago now. Perhaps it was the format, or the fact that my attention was always forked (I usually listen while driving) but it didn't affect me as much as a lot of other people, apparently, and for that I am disappointed with myself. I will try some of her other stuff — I recognize she's an intelligent writer, that I (unfortunately) can only read her stuff in translation, and that it's up to me to meet her halfway.
posted by newdaddy at 6:41 AM on August 12, 2020

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