I have recently started a new book – “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” by Olga Tokarczuk. It is a mystery novel written by a pretty famous Polish writer who has won many prestigious literary rewards. It was given to me by my Polish friend who knows I have a YouTube and Instagram blog about books. I decided not to waste my time and plunge into it right away.
I am only 1/3 way through the book, but I already want to talk about it – mainly, because it gives me a lot of nostalgic feelings. This novel is written in the dark feminist style about some mysterious murders happening in a remote village of Poland in mid-winter. As the Guardian comments, the main character Janina Duszejko is a sort of quirky European Miss Marple, trying to solve the mystery.
Now, I am not from Poland. I have never witnessed a crime or played the role of a detective. I have never lived in a small village. That’s not the nostalgia I am talking about. What I felt grabbing this book and reading the first few lines was a profound analysis of life, existence, and living beings (humans and animals) – something Russian literature is notorious for. Tokarczuk’s writing style is what makes me nostalgic most of all. This dark sense of futility. This exploration of human psychology in the hardest moments of life. This search for answers never given to you. This hopeless feeling of “some things will never change.” This atmosphere of constant, but completely vain fight against the system. This sense of being a small screw in the large, roaring mechanism. This idealistic urge to defend your principles. This pessimistic optimism. I felt that all from only first few chapters.
This is slow literature. You have to be patient with it. It is not to be digested like a burger. Yummy, but you are hungry a few hours later. No, this kind of writing is to be tasted, tried, savoured, processed, and left on the plate for the next time. Piece by piece, sentence by sentence. It is never finished. It is never resolved. And this uneasy feeling of unsolvable, indefinite, unanswerable, ambiguous, mysterious world is what makes this kind of literature true to the bones – humankind in the raw.
As Tokarczuk says in this book, “The human psyche evolved in order to defend itself against seeing the truth. To prevent us from catching sight of the mechanism. The psyche is our defense system – it makes sure we’ll never understand what’s going on around us. Its main task is to filter information, even though the capabilities of our brains are enormous. For it would be impossible for us to carry the weight of this knowledge. Because every tiny particle of the world is made of suffering.”
So true. So true.