Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

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From the publisher:

With Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Man Booker International Prize-winner Olga Tokarczuk returns with a subversive, entertaining noir novel. In a remote Polish village, Janina Duszejko, an eccentric woman in her sixties, recounts the events surrounding the disappearance of her two dogs. She is reclusive, preferring the company of animals to people; she’s unconventional, believing in the stars; and she is fond of the poetry of William Blake, from whose work the title of the book is taken. When members of a local hunting club are found murdered, Duszejko becomes involved in the investigation. By no means a conventional crime story, this existential thriller by ‘one of Europe’s major humanist writers’ (Guardian) offers thought-provoking ideas on our perceptions of madness, injustice against marginalized people, animal rights, the hypocrisy of traditional religion, belief in predestination – and caused a genuine political uproar in Tokarczuk’s native Poland.

Guardian Best Books of 2018 | The White Review Books of the Year 2018 | The Quietus Books of the Year 2019

‘A magnificent writer.’
— Svetlana Alexievich, 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate

‘A writer on the level of W. G. Sebald.’
— Annie Proulx, author of The Shipping News

‘Though the book functions perfectly as noir crime – moving towards a denouement that, for sleight of hand and shock, should draw admiration from the most seasoned Christie devotee – its chief preoccupation is with unanswerable questions of free will versus determinism, and with existential unease. ... In Antonia Lloyd-Jones’s translation, the prose is by turns witty and melancholy, and never slips out of that distinctive narrative voice. ... That this novel caused such a stir in Poland is no surprise. There, the political compass has swung violently to the right, and the rights of women and of animals are under attack (the novel’s 2017 film adaptation, Spoor, caused one journalist to remark that it was “a deeply anti-Christian film that promoted eco-terrorism”). It is an astonishing amalgam of thriller, comedy and political treatise, written by a woman who combines an extraordinary intellect with an anarchic sensibility.’
 Sarah Perry, the Guardian

‘One among a very few signal European novelists of the past quarter-century.’
— The Economist

‘Aspects of dark fantasy permeate Olga Tokarczuk’s grimly comic tale of death and vengeance, set in a remote forested plateau on the border between two realms, with a cast of intelligent animals, ghostly apparitions, celestial influence and humans who resemble trolls, witches, giants and goblins. ... Translated with virtuosic precision and wit by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Tokarczuk’s prescient, provocative and furiously comic fiction seethes with a Blakean conviction of the cleansing power of rage: the vengeance of the weak when justice is denied. ... [An] elegantly subversive novel.’
 Jane Shilling, New Statesman

Tokarczuk’s novels, poems and short stories consistently open up unpredictable wonders and astonishments, and there isn’t a genre that she can’t subvert. ... Antonia Lloyd-Jones pulls off a flawless, intimate translation, even tackling the technically dazzling feat of presenting Blake’s poems as translations from English into Polish, back into English. ... [Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead] will make you want to read everything that Tokarczuk has written.’
— Financial Times

‘Amusing, stimulating and intriguing ... [Drive Your Plow] might be likened to Fargo as rewritten by Thomas Mann, or a WG Sebald version of The Mousetrap. … Olga Tokarczuk’s previous novel, Flights ... was the winner of the Man Booker International Prize, for translated fiction, and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, though smaller in scale, will help confirm her position as the first Polish writer to command sustained Western attention since the end of the Cold War.’
— Leo Robson, The Telegraph

‘Janina is such an unusual, engaging narrator that her nihilism is strangely cheering; this was one of the funniest books of the year.’
— Justine Jordan, Books of the Year 2018, Guardian

‘Strange, mordantly funny, consoling and wise, Olga Tokarczuk’s novels fill the reader’s mind with intimations of a unique consciousness. Her latest novel to be translated into English, Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of The Dead is simultaneously unsettling and oddly companionable. Suffused with William Blake, astrological lore, and the landscapes of middle Europe, it’s both a meditation on human compassion and a murder mystery that lingers in the imagination.’
— Marcel Theroux, author of Strange Bodies

‘I loved this wry, richly melancholic philosophical mystery. It’s a compelling and endlessly thought-provoking novel, luminous with the strangeness of existence.’
— Megan Hunter, author of The End We Start From

‘Sardonic humour and gothic plot-twists add a layer of macabre rustic comedy. Antonia Lloyd-Jones, an outstanding Polish-English translator, sculpts Janina’s English voice (complete with Blakean capitalisations) with panache.’
— Boyd Tonkin, The Economist

‘Tokarczuk’s novel is interested in anger; it follows the neural pathways anger travels, through the interior spaces of the human sensorium and the exterior world of politics, which makes it an especially timely book in these Tweetstorm times. ... While Drive Your Plow undoubtedly aligns with the politics of the animal rights/vegan movements ... Tokarczuk’s book complicates and delineates nuances within a broader socio-historical context. The range of her aim encompasses not only the ethical questions posed by hunting and meat-eating, but also a peculiarly Polish collusion of nationalism, theology and blood sports. Tokarczuk shoots a crossbow at the consecrated position the hunt has held in her country’s national identity and in doing so challenges a formidable coalition of the power elite of nationalist Poland.’
— Alice Lyons, Dublin Review of Books

‘I want to use the word “dense” to describe Plow, but it’s not hard going at all – it’s just that there is so much food for thought in Duszejko’s inner monologues and her interactions with others, in the unique way she looks at the world. There is a wonderful, fertile depth about the book, but it is worn lightly. While a completely different form than Flights, it is no less layered, ingenious or beautiful.’
— Marta Dziurosz, Glasgow Review of Books

‘Antonia Lloyd-Jones ... has once again done a remarkable job of capturing the uncanny distinction of Tokarczuk’s prose in English. There is much to admire in this book and even more to learn.’
 Michael Cronin, Irish Times

‘The English translation of Drive Your Plow could not have come out in a more pertinent moment in our complex, and often contradictory, understanding of the anthropocene. Tokarczuk responds to our irreversible times with serious conviction in depicting the human relationship to the natural world. ... Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is both an oracle and political treatise for our times, a triumphantly contained and slick novel that showcases the author’s ability to entertain and reflect; with her magnum opus, The Book of Jacob (translated by Jennifer Croft), due for publication in 2020, it is easy to see why Olga Tokarczuk is hailed as one of the most compelling and imaginative voices in contemporary literature.’
— Jay G. Ying, The Scores

‘Entering Mrs. Duszejko’s rich, eccentric world is like waking up in Oz, or falling into Wonderland. Everything, from the unreliable mobile phone signal to the patterns of the wind, is attributed character and motivation, so that the whole universe shimmers with intent, agency and hidden meaning.’
 Jane Graham, The Big Issue

Drive Your Plow casts a mythical spell over a chilly psychological thriller. It is so tantalisingly written, its developments so precisely but invisibly measured out, that I found myself far more likely to forget about the reviewing than the reading. ... a really good book can change the way we see things, and ... Drive Your Plow unequivocally excels at this. But it is only a really clever book that manages to upend the impression slowly being recorded in the reader’s mind and throw it on its head right in the very last pages. And Drive Your Plow does this too, with a twist that made me want to instantly re-read the entire thing and find out what I’d missed.’
 Antonia Cundy, Review 31

‘Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead … speaks volumes on the problematic habits of humans. An ode to nature and a love letter to animals, Tokarczuk’s novel is the wonderfully crafted story of an animal-loving recluse desperately fighting to make the world a better place.’
— Laila Obeidat, The London Magazine

 

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