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Pop culture disliked by some readers of serious novels I daresay Olga Tokarczuk thought about all this as well as hardline Polish Catholic clergy s dislike of astrology when she decided to put it in Drive Your Plow although she wouldn t have known that the novel would be translated to English at a time when astrology is gaining in popularity among ounger peopleJanina seemed so similar although not I hasten to add in her most extreme actions to a couple of women whose posts I d read ears ago in pet forums that I wondered if the translator had read the same forums and taken inspiration from the writing style of these people She shares other characteristics with them beyond narrative voice a level of intelligence and expertise in her chosen interests which a lot of people wouldn t think a mad cat lady type would have and anger and hardcore views about animal rights usually associated with recently converted oung vegans It turns out that a linguistic similarity the capitalisation of certain nouns such as Animals was present in the original Polish novel thank ou GR Agnieszka Later in the book extended English prose uotations from William Blake Janina s favourite author of whom she makes unpublished Polish translations as a hobby indicated that he was actually the inspiration behind her capitalisations He was writing at a time when this capitalisation was accepted and not necessarily an indicator of personal eccentricity corporate brand speak or of a story for children as it is now Since reading Drive Your Plow and this review I ve also read Henry Fielding s Tom Jones 1749 in the Penguin edition that preserves the original capitalisation and where it is used for every Noun Blake writing decades later was selective about his use of capsFor all its positives I also thought the book might be shooting itself in the foot while trying to do too many clever things in one go The plot twist seemed to undermine the novel s causes greater respect for women like Janina for environmental and animal rights activism and opposition to conservative Catholicism This comes to an aspect of the book that I found tricky to write about I revised draft reviews than once in the hope of being both true to my own views and diplomatic about religion In the end the latter became easier I realised that whilst historically the Christian doctrine of man s dominion over the animals can be seen as background to the current environmental situation the exp Oh YESLiterary uirky snarky noir Asks the same uestions that Dostoevsky asks in Crime and Punishment who has the right to live who has the right to kill and what s the difference between a poacher and a hunter anyway that last uestion is Tokarczuk s not Dostoevsky sThese uestions are asked in a most uniue way A middle aged woman in rural Poland a woman who is best described as eccentric obsessed with astrology plagued by ailments both physical and psychological finds herself in the middle of something of a murder mystery The world is out of order Is it because Saturn is in the 8th house Or because the animals have had enough at long lastThis is an utter delight to read I enjoyed being in the head of this marvellously unreliable narrator smirked at her many amusing observations her interactions with the people in her life and the natural world What an original voice That voice is everything in this book The way she capitalizes certain words assigns her own names to people ponders the proverbs of William Blake where the fabulous title of this novel originates Janina is someone I will not soon forgetAt the same time this book is dark and tinged throughout with death Death of all creatures humans included The cruelty of the elements of seclusion The loneliness experienced by a group of misfits The solitary steps of one going against the tide The unstoppable universe with everyone s fate on a crash courseIt s this crash course that drives the reader through these pages You sort of know what s happening but need to see it played out the way it was written in the stars for better or worseOlga Tokarczuk 2018 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature has truly impressed me What
an inspiration It shouldn t be a surprise though this is her destiny after all Now shortlisted inspiration It shouldn t be a surprise though this is her destiny after all Now shortlisted the Man Booker International Prize 2019This is the second book by Olga Tokarczuk to be published in translation by Fitzcarraldo Editions The previous one Flights deservedly won this ear s Man Booker International prize and is my favourite of all the books I have read this ear This one is very different but just "as interesting in some ways it is closer in spirit to Primeval " interesting in some ways it is closer in spirit to Primeval Other Times the second Tokarczuk novel to be translated into EnglishThe translation is by Antonia Lloyd Jones who is English so I was a little surprised by the spelling of the striking title Those who know their William Blake well may recognise it as a uotation and indeed Blake takes a major role in the book The epigraphs which begin each chapter are all uotations from Blake s The most unintentionally metal title everI really enjoyed this one I found the main character an old woman who s obsessed with astrology but is also a pretty bad astrologer really lovable I mostly loved her point of view and all her little uirksThere s a good murder mystery here and a deep meditation about our relationship to animals and hunting Sometimes in the novel this is direct conversations like who are we to kill animals or judge which ones deserve to live and sometimes it s subtle the main character is deeply uncomfortable with assigned names I m not sure we re left with any good answers But it made me think And even though the main character s views veer into extremes she was always thoughtful and had something worth listening toI m not well versed in William Blake but I thought this was a cool way to talk about and use Blake s poems and letters And via Blake it s a very memorable title There are some fun passages about trying to translate Blake that seemed like a fun meta commentary on reading a book like this in translation which overall I thought was a really good translationIt also made me realize that if ou want to win some major prizes go write ourself a fancy noir novel People love fancy noir I certainly doTotal aside I checked this out from the library a week before the author won the Nobel prize It was exciting to hear the news and see the book on my shelf Most memorable main character in a book this earThis was a different sort of novel with a different sort of heroine A uirky eccentric old lady who is not taken seriously by the authorities even when a series of dead bodies turn up in their small village in Poland She claims to have proof that it is the Animals they re always capitalized when she speaks taking revenge on the hunters and backs up her claims by doing intricate astrological charts for the deceased showing how their murders by Animals were governed and predicted by the starsI couldn t help but like Janina Duszejko with her oddities and her passion for animals She s not a saint and she s not all there at times but she draws Gone (Gone, you in with her fervor and eccentricity The book is kind of a mystery but not so much It s worth reading for the characters alone It s a novel I didn t want to put down and it s a novel that makesou think Duszejko s thoughts were at times spot on and at others far out there but at all times compelling pulling Threads Of The Shroud you in to her world I highly recommend to those who enjoy a character driven novel Its Animals show the truth about a country Duszejko said Its attitude toward Animals If people behave brutally toward Animals no form of democracy is ever going to help them in fact nothing will at al. Trología defensora a ultranza de los animales obsesionada por la obra del poeta William Blake intentará resolver por su cuenta los misteriosos crímenes. .
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Tential Dentist who performs surgery illegally out in a All Seated on the Ground yard p 136 and her best friend Dizzy who translates William Blake poetry with JanineWhat I liked was her keen sense of observation such as the overuse of expressions by people These words or phrases are the key to their intellect Mr Apparently Mr Generally Mrs Probably Mr Fucking Mrs Don t You Think Mr As If The President was Mr In Truth Of course there are entire fashions for some words just like the ones that for some crazy reason suddenly everyone start going about in identical shows or clothes people just as suddenly start using one particular word or phrase Recently the word generally was fashionable but now actually is out in front p 185 I think this is the kind of observation I could have read in KOK or DFWThere is also a great deal of humor and irony particularly in her various appeals to the police such as the letter about various trials of animals throughout history p 190 She has some interesting theories 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 to carry the weight of this knowledge Because every tiny particle of the world is made of suffering p 225This is a powerful piece of literature and I am definitely intrigued and want to read by this author Natural JusticeHypocrisy allows us to remain alive Without it we would be forced to recognise the misery we endure and the misery we inflict So we lie we make evil even if it s necessary evil into virtue Untruthfulness is re branded as discretion Exploitation becomes providing employment Nationalism hides behind a mask of religious faith And environmental destruction is promoted as a divine right which human beings have an obligation to honour As Mrs Janina Duszejko Civil Engineer English Teacher Gnostic Astrologer Committed Vegetarian and translator of William Blake knows The whole complex human psyche has evolved to prevent Man from understanding what he is really seeing While not religious Janina believes in cosmic order She thinks birth death and the course of our lives are determined by our pre conscious experience with the stars and the planets Living through the long winters in the isolated mountains of Southwestern Poland have given her plenty of leisure to pursue these connections The factual results of her research are clear every tiny particle of the world is made of suffering Her conclusion is that of William Blake himself Anger puts things in order and showsou the world in a nutshell Anger restores the gift of Clarity of Vision which it s hard to attain in any other state Without a doubt Anger is the source of all wisdom for Anger has the power to exceed any limits Janina is angry and she dreams of revenge mainly against the local hunting fraternity who have killed her two dogs and any number of wild creatures whom she has befriended or admired She is unable to break through the wall of institutional hypocrisy that the hunters have erected to protect themselves But despite the solidarity among the local gentry the police the state forestry people and even the Church the leading hunters are found successively dead over the course of a ear Janina blames the animals and writes the authorities repeatedly to inform them of her suspicions She doesn t want the animals punished but forgiven as a matter of justice for it is obvious to her if to no one else that the world was not created for Mankind Only religious fanatics and other self serving types could argue otherwise Oh wait perhaps they re righteously angry too Is it only hypocrites who are hypocritical Drive Your Plow has been described as one of Olga Tokarczuk s lighter novels written between the experimental Flights and The Books of Jacob as she said in this interview but this literary crime story narrated by an eccentric animal lover in her 60s is still full of ideas Some things were easy to say about the book It has gorgeous descriptions of nature In this it s similar to the writing of Andrzej Stasiuk another major contemporary Polish author who like Olga Tokarczuk left Warsaw to move to the Tatra mountain border regions Although Tokarczuk was born near the area where she now lives Both writers incorporate the rural landscape and the culture of the border area into their work If ou are an English language reader with heritage in the hills of southern of Poland Wiring you are rather spoilt for choice it s not often that there is such an abundance of translated writing from such sparsely populated areas far from major cities Parts of Drive Your Plow contain intensely reflective and philosophical insights Especially near the beginning there s a paragraph worth highlighting and remembering on every page These seem hint at why Tokarczuk s longer novel Flights won thisear s International Booker and why The Books of Jacob has been so eagerly awaited by English readers of complex fiction Some of the novel especially after the early chapters is of a pacy literary crime story and less overtly philosophical Which makes it a faster lighter read overall than it may seem from the opening pages however this may disappoint readers hoping for something structurally experimental all the way through I m grateful to Katia s review which I read before the novel itself it was invaluable in
explaining that the narrator of Drive Your Plow is a riff on a 1990s East European trend for light ironicthat the narrator of Drive Your Plow is a riff on a 1990s East European trend for light ironic featuring female detectives I couldn t help but see this through the lens of the English cosy mystery subgenre as descended from Miss Marple but undoubtedly there are differences in the Polish euivalent which an English reader is unaware of The ueen of 20th century Polish crime writing the late Joanna Chmielewska has not been translated to English as et Seeing Drive Your Plow as a satire on old lady cosy mysteries made me look forward to reading it it seemed like an easy way into Tokarczuk s work so than Flights which had been talked up as formidable or the two other books of hers which I d already owned for ears and which had become ought or the two other books of hers which I d already owned for Jingling Daddys Bells BDSM Menage years and which had become ought reads at least as much as want to reads And as it turned out I loved what Tokarczuk added to the cosy mystery concept twists politics and amplification of traits that popular culture associates with older women living alone but which it does not necessarily respect including a mad cat lady love of all animals not just cats Pani Duszejko is actually a dog owner and a belief in superstitions and the supernatural The narrator is not as safe and sweet asour typical cosy mystery heroine There is also another feminist twist on crime fiction in general in Drive Your Plow the murder victims are middle aged and older men not the usual oung women or childrenIn literary fiction making astrology prominent in a narrative can get people s backs up as it did with Eleanor Catton s 2013 Booker Winner The Luminaries I mean this isn t romance or commercial women s fiction is it On a personal level I find horoscopes pernicious they can be an insidious nuisance when combined with a phase of OCD type issues But when they are used as complex motifs in a literary novel I think the snobbery they provoke is excessive Some have described this snobbery as sexist although perhaps it is also sexist to align astrology so strongly with women I doubt that heavy use of for example Renaissance alchemy and its symbolism in a work of fiction would irritate the same people to the same extent Astrology is similarly a system of symbols and interactions one well known in current pop culture It has a place in fiction just like other features of. A Cuando la rutina del pueblo se ve interrumpida por una serie de asesinatos ue tienen como víctimas a varios cazadores furtivos Janina apasionada de la as. I ve carried some William Blake verses around in a pocket of my memory for ears To say I studied them at school is probably not uite accurate since I don t remember anything I learned about Auguries of Innocence All the same Blake s verses lent themselves to memorizing better than many others and so they stuck fast in my idiosyncratic mind I loved them so much that I once inscribed a verse from Blake on a friend s birthday card convinced that To see a World in a Grain of Sand and a Heaven in a Wild Flower was the most be 35 In seed time learn in harvest teach in winter enjoy Drive our cart and drive over the bones of the dead The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom William Blake from the Marriage of Heaven and HellThe author just won the Novel Prize announced I believe today This is one weird story but somehow compelling in its strangeness A very unusual lead character Janina in her sixties lives on the edge of the CzechPolish border She is rather a recuse with only a few friends but she loves the animals in Forest and is mourning the loss of her two missing dogs Her main occupation is the translating the poetry of William Blake This and a few side jobs keep her occupied She is also in bad health and occasionally her condition flares up keeping her down and out When bodies of those she is auainted with are found murder Janina tries to convince the police that they are being murdered by the animals that are being mistreatedAt one point in this slowly paced story I thought I would never get out of Poland I couldn t figure out where this story was going nor what it meant Was Janina losing her mind Or was it everyone else who not seeing what they should Is this a fairy tale a mystery or maybe a parable Janina also is a strong believer in astrology and it is these sections that I felt slowed down this novel Not sure they were necessary at least not as lengthy It does highlight the man and animal connection and if one is not a vegetarian this book makes a strong arguement for being one Well I made it out of Poland and though I m glad to be done I m also glad that I read this very different book It was uniue for sure and provided a very interesting reading experienceARC from Edelweiss If ou ve got a bit of Jane Goodall in Sleep, Circadian Rhythms, and Metabolism you as I do try this off beat thriller The humor is subtle and the style beautifully stripped down The writing exhibits a mastery of tone and narrative pacing that induced wonder and admiration in this readerOur storyteller is an elderly woman who living alone in a rural area of Poland between Wroc aw and the Czech border is awakened in the dead of night by her neighbor Oddball to be told that another neighbor Big Foot is dead The woman is eccentric but intelligent and compassionate She has long despised Big Foot for his arrogant behavior and reckless despoliation of The Plateau the isolated area in which they live and brutal treatment of his dog She has reported him to the police who are a laughable bit of dysfunction unto themselves Now he is dead After the discovery Mrs Duszejko goes about her business She housesits for those who use their houses only as summer retreats whereas she is on The Plateauear round roughing the bitter winters alone when it can reach 20 F Though her vocabulary is laudably rich and her understanding of the natural sciences keen she has an incongruous fondness for astrology of which she says Nothing is capable of eluding this order p 56 She believes that her Little Ladies that is the local deer for she is a stalwart lover of Animal life have conspired with other local wildlife to murder a second person she bases this speculation on the hundreds of deer prints left in the snow near the murder scene which she happens upon Between these two deaths Big Foot s has been ruled an accidental choking he was eating poached deer at the time Mrs Duszejko a retired teacher of English teams up with a former student Dizzy to consult with him as he methodically translates the collected works of William Blake into Polish She wishes she knew Animal script so she could warn the innocent creatures away from the hunters Then again she wishes she could be aloof to the crimes committed around her like those a short drive away in Auschwitz who hardly know what happened there during the war She is alas not made of such incurious stuff She sees suffering and despairsSoon when visiting the police commissioner she s raving like a PETA member You ll say it s just one Boar I continued But what about the deluge of butchered meat that falls on our cities day by day like never ending apocalyptic rain This rain heralds slaughter disease collective madness the obfuscation and contamination of the Mind For no human heart is capable of bearing such pain The whole complex human psyche has evolved to prevent Man from understanding what he is really seeing To stop the truth from reaching him by wrapping it in illusion in idle chatter The world is a prison of suffering so constructed that in order to survive one must inflict pain on others p 106 The killings go on All the victims are hunters middle aged men Mrs Duszejko continues to write letters to the police in which she interprets the horoscopes of the dead citing relevant planetary conjunctions and the like She gets no reply There are many twists in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead that this summary doesn t touch on and let s not forget about the final kicker This is the work of an extraordinarily talented writer relatively new to English speakers whom I look forward to reading of Hypnotic stuff Never underestimate the strength and fortitude of middle age ladies What makes this novel stand out is precisely its unusual protagonist single eccentric living in the woods with her astrology A woman we would pass on the street and ignore like many do in the telling of the tale much to their own disadvantageJanine hates her name and loves giving her own names to folks in her lifeThe naming of Big Foot occured in a similar way It was uite straightforward it suggested itself to me when I saw his footprints in the snowUnfortunately I couldn t choose a suitable name for myself I regard that the one that s written on my identity card as scandalously wrong for me and unfair Janina I think my real name is Emily or Joanna Sometimes I think it s something like Irmtrude too Or Bellona Or Medea p 19 The mention of Medea is particularly significant in what followsShe is uite alone and saddened when she tries to save an abused animal which returns to its abusive home when she opens her door That was the last I d seen of her I d called her annoye at letting myself be led up the garden path so easily and helpless
in the path of the sinister workings of bondage I d started to put on my boots path of the sinister workings bondage I d started to put on my boots that terrible gray morning alarmed me Sometimes I feel as if we re living inside a tomb a large spacious one for lots of people I looked at the world wreathed in gray 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 p 32 I found this a nice update to Nietsche s abyssHer concept of spirituality is Kantian to a degreeAnd it will unfold for us for it is our mother this Light and we came from it We even carry a particle of it within us each of us even Big Foot So in fact death should please us p 39Many times in the book Janine observes nature very carefully and sees the interdependency of relationships see page 98 for some aspects of the life of certain birds This reminded me a bit of The Overstory in that nature is very important to the action in the book The book is populated with characters such as Good News who has a shop that Janine adores and the exis. Janina Duszejko es una ingeniera de caminos retirada ue enseña inglés en la escuela rural de Kotlina Klodzka una región montañosa del suroeste de Poloni.