>Olga Tokarczuk


The first night I had a dream. I dreamed I was pure sight, without a body or a name. I was suspended high above a valley at some undefined point from which I could see everything. I could move around my field of vision, yet remain in the same place. It seemed as if the world below was yielding to me as I look at it, constantly moving towards me, and then away, so first I could see everything, then only tiny details.
I could see a valley with a house standing in the middle of it, but it wasn’t my house, or my valley, because nothing belonged to me. I didn’t even belong to myself. There was no such thing as ‘I’. Yet I could see the circular line of the horizon enclosing the valley on all sides. I could see a turbulent stream flowing down between the hills. I could see trees set deep into the ground like huge, one-legged creatures. The stillness of what I could see was only on the surface. Whenever I wished, I could look through this surface to what lay underneath. Under the bark of trees I could see rivulets of water, streams of sap flowing up and down the trunk. Under the roof of the house I could see the bodies of people asleep, and their stillness, too, was only superficial – their hears were beating gently, their blood was rippling in their veins, I could even see their dreams, fragments of images flashing inside their heads. In their tangled dream-thoughts I could see myself (this was when I discovered the strange truth, that I was purely vision, without any values or emotions). Then I discovered that I could see through times as well, and that just as I could change my point of view in space, so I could change it in time, too. I was like the cursor on a computer screen navigating of its own accord, or at least oblivious of the hand that is moving it.
I seemed to dream like this for an eternity. There was no before, or after, no sense of anticipation, because there was nothing to gain or lose. The night would never end. Nothing would happen. Even time would never change what I could see. I went on staring, not toticing anything new or forgetting anything I had seen.

4 thoughts on “>Olga Tokarczuk

  1. s.A

    >(Kirkus UK)
    When a translator's note claims that some of the recipes in a book should carry a health warning you know you're in for a surprise. In fact, it's the mushrooms that give cause for concern because, when it comes to fraternizing with fungi, Olga Tokarczuk cooks up a paean to puffballs. 'If I weren't a person,' she writes, 'I'd be a mushroom.' Why? Well, obviously the mushroom has a certain capacity to confuse the human mind. And aside from living on dead things, the mushroom (Tokarczuk claims) makes no distinction between day and night. Indeed, at dawn and dusk, when everything else is preoccupied with waking up or falling asleep, the mushroom is secretly growing. This book is not as loopy as it sounds. The real object of Tokarczuk's fascination is not mushrooms but the interior lives of her neighbours in her native south-west Poland. Part of the German Reich until 1945, south-west Poland is the hotch-potch region known as Silesia. Inevitably subject to shifting national identity, Silesia's people are in the main ordinary folk, uncomplicated and unsophisticated. They believe in werewolves, they dream fantastical dreams. They are occasionally illiterate, they like eating mushrooms. But, as with those secretly growing mushrooms, Tokarczuk begins to discover that there is far more than meets the eye to the members of her local community. The resulting unusual but charming collection of fictional pieces demonstrates the author's skill in imaginative portraiture. A popular writer in her own country, Olga Tokarczuk is here published for the first time in English, introducing into the mainstream of Western literature the study of a little-known area of middle European life. Very welcome, providing we remember that point about mushrooms and don't try this at home.

  2. s.A

    The town of Nowa Ruda and the surrounding countryside is a place of shifting identities. Polish now, it has been German, Czech and Austro-Hungarian in the past. Here, in the heart of Europe, where borders move and languages and their speakers come and go, ordinary lives are not as simple as they appear. When the narrator and her husband settle in the area, she soon discovers that all the locals have their secrets and with the help of Marta, her enigmatic old neighbour, she gathers their stories, disentangling the events of their days from the dreams of their nights. House of Day, House of Night is a wonderfully funny weave of myths and dreams, internet findings, recipes and gossip. A bestseller in Poland, and winner of the prestigious NIKE prize – the country's most important literary prize – its publication brings a new voice to English-speaking readers.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.