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February 25, 2020

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

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A superb 2009 novel by 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Olga Tokarczuk, translated from Polish into English by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.

I remember a long, long time ago, reading his review of Camus' "The Stranger," critic Justin O'Brien's remark that the mark of a great book is an abundance of potential quotations.

Below, those that struck me in just the first 67 pages of Tokarzuk's book.

Of course I had one, but I wouldn't be able to tell where it was until morning, in the daylight. It's a feature of torches that they're only visible in the daytime.

To my mind, Death should be followed by the annihilation of matter. That would be the best solution for the body. Like this, annihilated bodies would go straight back into the black holes whence they came. The Souls would travel at the speed of light into the light. If such a thing as the Soul exists.

Long years of unhappiness cause a Person worse degradation than a fatal illness. 

There we stood in the cold, damp room, in the frosty vacuum prevailing at this dull, grey time of night, and it crossed my mind that the thing that leaves the body sucks a piece of the world after it, and no matter how good or bad it was, how guilty or blameless, it leaves behind a great big void.

I looked out the window. Dawn was breaking, and idle snowflakes were gradually starting to fill the nothingness. They were falling slowly, weaving their way through the air and spinning on their own axis like feathers.

• 

Anger makes the mind clear and incisive, able to see more. It sweeps up the other emotions and takes control of the body. Without a doubt Anger is the source of all wisdom, for Anger has the power to exceed any limits.

What a joy it is in life when you happen to have a clean, warm kitchen. 

Once we reach a certain age, it's hard to be reconciled to the fact that people are always going to be impatient with us. In the past, I was never aware of the existence and meaning of gestures such as rapidly giving assent, avoiding eye contact, and repeating "yes, yes, yes" like clockwork. Or checking the time, or rubbing one's nose — these days I fully understand this entire performance for expressing the simple phrase: "Give me a break, you old bag."

Sometimes, when a Person feels Anger, everything seems simple and obvious. Anger puts things in order and shows you the world in a nutshell: Anger restores the gift of Clarity of Vision, which it's hard to attain in any other state.

Sometimes I feel as if we're living in a tomb, a large, spacious one for lots of people. I looked at the world wreathed in grey Murk, cold and nasty. The prison is not outside, but inside each of us. Perhaps we simply don't know how to live without it.

It is at Dusk that the most interesting things occur, for that is when simple differences fade away. I could live in everlasting Dusk.

• 

In a way, people like her, those who wield a pen, can be dangerous. At once a suspicion of fakery springs to mind — that such a Person is not him or herself, but an eye that's constantly watching, and whatever it sees it changes into sentences; in the process it strips reality of its most essential quality — its inexpressibility.

One must keep one's eyes and ears open, one must know how to match up the facts, see similarity where others see total difference, remember that certain events occur at various levels or, to put it another way, many incidents are aspects of the same, single occurrence. And that the world is a great big net, where no single thing exists separately; every scrap of the world, every tiny last piece, is bound up with the rest by a complex Cosmos of correspondences, hard for the ordinary mind to penetrate. That is how it works. Like a Japanese car.

February 25, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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