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Primeval and Other Times

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Set in the mythical Polish village of Primeval, a microcosm of the world populated with eccentric, archetypal characters and guarded by four archangels, this novel from Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk chronicles the lives of the inhabitants over the course of the feral 20th century in prose that is forceful, direct, and the stylistic cousin of the magic realism in Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. Told in short bursts of "Time," the narrative takes the form of a stylized fable, an epic allegory about the inexorable grind of time and the clash between modernity (the masculine) and nature (the feminine) in which Poland's tortured political history from 1914 to the contemporary era and the episodic brutality visited on ordinary village life is played out. A novel of universal dimension that does not dwell on the parochial, Primeval and Other Times was hailed as a contemporary European classic and heralded Tokarczuk as one of the leading voices in Polish as well as world literature.

248 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1996

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About the author

Olga Tokarczuk

69 books5,390 followers
Olga Tokarczuk is one of Poland's most celebrated and beloved authors, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Man Booker International Prize, as well as her country's highest literary honor, the Nike. She is the author of eight novels and two short story collections, and has been translated into more than thirty languages.

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Profile Image for s.penkevich.
849 reviews5,824 followers
March 7, 2023
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

-Walt Whitman

Novels have a beautiful way of emphasizing events to draw a contained meaning from them. Some novels hone in on a short period of time, or a single life, and make epics of the moment, whereas some are epics for their grand scale. While Primeval, by Polish author and Nobel Prize recipient Olga Tokarczuk falls into the latter category, the delivery of the narrative simultaneously grants an epic quality to the small passing moments, just as much as it does to the larger timeline of events. This is a brilliant novel of people, place, and time that manages to successfully accomplish in just over 200 pages what would normally be expected of a door-stop of a novel. Primeval, a fictitious town ‘at the center of the universe, ’ functions as an amalgamation of Poland during the 20th century and humanity at large. Like the best of metaphors, it is both singular and universal all at once and satisfies the nuances of both the condensed and broad scope. This is an astonishing achievement to say the least. Tokarczuk has created a quiet little masterpiece somewhere along the lines of One Hundred Years of Solitude but in a minor key and has unlocked Polish history in a way that can be universally identified with and processed. Being a novel so entrenched in family history and place, it is nearly impossible for me to separate the narrative from my own reading experience, and the book came at the right time in my life as I sat over my newborn daughter in the NICU. The access to the ancestors that this book gave me, as well as its own characters, was a powerful force in my life, as it is within its own narrative. This is a novel that seeps deep into the reader and pays homage to both the small and grand moments in history in order to demonstrate how each of our individual waltzes across a finite timeline becomes an eternal dance of humanity across time.

Despite having owned Primeval for many years, I had never read it. Over the past year, I read both Flights and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead and found them to be utterly delightful. As the grandson of Polish immigrants, I’ve always been drawn to Polish literature and have found in Olga Tokarczuk a voice that speaks more profoundly to my being than Bruno Schulz or even the existential works of Witold Gombrowicz did to my younger self. Tokarczuk’s way of paying subtle homage to the spiritual aspects of Polish history, most prominently here in Primeval with the four archangels guarding each cardinal direction of the city, has a transcendent quality that allows for creativity and history to collide into a gorgeous union of philosophical insight.
Imagining is essentially creative; it is a bridge reconciling matter and spirit. Especially when it is done intensely and often. Then the image turns into a drop of matter, and joins the currents of life. Sometimes along the way something in it gets distorted and changes. Therefore, if they are strong enough, all human desires come true – but not always entirely as expected.

Although the Slavic gods of pre-Christian imperialism are not called upon in the novel, a Polish spirituality with the natural world is always close at hand and butting heads with the violent progression of history and strife that befalls the region. And although Tokarczuk speaks out against the right-wing Caltholic influence and its patriarchal hierarchy in Poland throughout her oeuvre (very prominently in Drive Your Plow… in fact) as well as against the rotation of oppressive regimes that come to dominate the country, her primary theme--particularly here--is connection with nature and time as if the two were a flowing river abruptly disrupted by the forces of humankind. Akin to the family narrative in Hamsun’s Growth of the Soil and their progress and adaptations within an ever rapidly changing world, Primeval is a multigenerational narrative that primarily focuses on the Niebieski and Boski families (eventually united by marriage) and their village contemporaries as they follow the passage of time beset by violent interruptions of war and human progress. A novel of ancestry and struggle confined to a specific place, this was the perfect novel to read when I finally cracked the cover.

My younger daughter was born in early October of 2019 and within moments of birth we were taken to the NICU as she had been born prematurely (a medically induced birth out of a potential concern that she was not growing properly; in the end, she was fine, just a small child, and she is perfectly healthy as I write this now). If you haven’t endured this experience, words are poor vessels to adequately capture the hodgepodge of emotions that arise from being only a passive force in your newborn’s life, returning to your home to sleep and feeling like you are only in the way as nurses care for your child and you spend your days in the hospital hoping for her to grow and survive. And also wondering how to be supportive of her amazing mother who is going through it along with you. It was on my first night home without our daughter that I noticed Primeval sitting neglected on the shelf. It was as if it was calling to me and, unbeknownst to me, this novel of family legacy was the perfect way to tap into a communion with my own Polish ancestors as I sat and rocked the tiny infant who was next in my timeline to bear my “I’ll just spell it out for you” last name and hoped for the best. When Olga Tokarczuk was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature a few long days later, I felt as if the cosmos were aligning to reassure us. As I read late into the autumnal evenings, falling asleep in hospital chairs, this book felt like my armor against the forces of the world. ‘ He who learns by taking things inside himself undergoes constant transformation,’ Tokarczuk writes, ‘because he incorporates what he learns into his being.’ Perhaps, then, this book felt like a talisman that would ensure our infant daughter would finally be able to eat on her own and come home with us as long as I took a long hard look back into the forces of life that had brought my own lineage into being and swallowed this knowledge deep within me. This book and the support my wonderful wife and I gave to each other is what made the time bearable.

God sees Time escapes Death pursues Eternity waits
As a reader, we follow the generations from the end of The Great War up until nearly modern times. We watch as Cornspike, once a small orphaned child, grows, has her own daughter, and functions as the closest thing to a link between humanity and nature that the novel has to offer. We watch Squire Popielski, who once fruitlessly waged a war against nature to stop the flooding of his crops, spend his life on a divine game to better unlock the meaning of the universe. And most importantly, we watch a depiction of God as a passive yet insecure lover of humanity.
’Come back to me. The world is terrible and it can kill you. Look at the earthquakes, the volcanic eruptions, the fires and the floods,’ he thundered from the rain clouds.

Oh, come on, I’ll manage,’ man replied, and was gone.

Humans are left to their own devices in the grand scheme of things and the sweeping changes of history are of their own making. While the natural world takes and gives in a sustainable manner, people wage war and bring devastation upon each other. Invasions from both Germans and Russians occur, women holding their infants are gunned down in the street, and even the ghosts who haunt the local forest awake and shake their heads at the foolishness of power and its destructive forces. ‘Do you know that the name of this race comes from the Latin word sclavus, a servant?’ a German officer states. ‘This is a nation with servility in its blood.’ The conquests of power and dominance are contrary to the natural course, and the two are brilliantly juxtaposed in the novel.

People – who themselves are in fact a process – are afraid of whatever is impermanent and always changing, which is why they have invented something that doesn’t exist – invariability, and recognised that whatever is eternal and unchanging is perfect. So they have ascribed invariability to God, and that was how they lost the ability to understand Him.

The passage of time becomes a way that generations try to find their identity and reshape it as the world changes around them. Like the world, we must be in a constant state of flux, adapting, deconstructing, and reconstructing. It is the only way forward. While there are horrific and sad moments from war, affairs, miscarriages, and abusive relationships (an episode late in the novel condemns the patriarchal society by having Cornspike’s beautiful daughter, Ruta--already victim to the whims of German soldiers during the war--come into the matrimonial grips of an older, repulsive man who sees her as merely a trophy to demonstrate his grandeur), the novel balances these with peaceful, pastoral scenes and bonds with the natural world. A giant mushroom spore even gets its own chapter. Finding peace with the world becomes essential to actual happiness, even if it means understanding its limitations in order to better understand our own. In one of the more magical realist nudges of the novel, Ruta, who has befriended Izydor--who has many mental and physical barriers--tells Izydor that the borders of Primeval are the ends of existence. Briefly playing into the metaphor of Primeval as The World, she asserts that there is nothing beyond and that travelers just manifest themselves into reality in order to “come” there. In keeping with the many musings on God in the novel, and metaphorically calling out Izydor’s own limitations, this becomes an opportunity to question the nature of existence as something that just appears and reappears in a seemingly magical way. Violence and modernity, it seems, always comes from outside the borders. When Ruta flees her abusive relationship and pops up around the world in letters she writes to Izydor (the novel contains a comical segment on how Izydor uses the mail system to earn money, though it later marks him as a potential spy under the Communist government that will later take control), Izydor must confront an idea of permanence in a person that has left the physical world. If Primeval is all there is, and Ruta is beyond it, does she truly exist? This is the nature of death, and her metaphorical exploration of it is subtle enough to not call attention to itself, yet beautiful enough to be deeply moving even if you can’t put your finger on why.

Tokarczuk shows that what is truly lasting in life is the physical world and we are all just passing through it. In a novel rife with symbolism, a passage on a coffee grinder brought back from the war shapes one of the most permanent images. ‘Perhaps coffee grinders are the axis of reality,’ she writes, ‘ around which everything turns and unwinds, perhaps they are more important for the world than people. And perhaps Misia’s one single grinder is the pillar of what is called Primeval.’ The family mill, which works on an axis as well, is one of the few lasting images across the novel’s timeline. These physical, unliving things, speak just as loudly of our time here as the people. Reflections of nature itself offer some of the most impressive musings on reality, such as when the eldest son Misia contemplates the seasons of apple and pear trees and how the former are brief but intense while the latter have deep roots for heartier beings. Both are equally important and beautiful.

For a relatively short novel, Primeval has enough philosophical heart to keep one endlessly chewing and digesting. The novel is directly linked to ideas of place, and the forest, as well as kitchens, bedrooms, and rooftops, all become elegant stages upon which the human comedy plays out. It was the ideal novel to read while navigating the emotional squalls of a children’s ward in a hospital, one that made me look long and hard at life and mortality but in a way that was humbly empowering and hopeful. Quiet and contemplative in tone, yet never dull or slow, Tokarczuk has created a masterpiece on human history that functions on multiple levels. It reminds us of our fleeting existence without making the realization one of terror or sadness but of joy to take part in a long lineage of roles in history. ‘The powerful play goes on,’ as Whitman wrote, ‘and you may contribute a verse.’ Let your verse be beautiful.

People tread new paths. They fell forests and plant young trees. They build weirs on rivers and buy land. They dig the foundations for new houses. They think about journeys. Men betray their women, and women their men. Children suddenly become adults and leave to lead their own lives. People cannot sleep. They drink too much. They take important decisions and start doing whatever they have not done until now. New ideologies arise. Governments change. Stock markets are unstable, and from one day to the next you can become a millionaire or lose everything. Revolutions break out that change regimes. People daydream, and confuse their dreams with what they regard as reality.

Florence also approves!
Profile Image for Gaurav.
148 reviews1,138 followers
November 10, 2019
God sees. Time escapes. Death Pursues. Eternity waits.

Life is so dark and scary yet so lively. It regenerates itself. Life awaits death right from the moment of birth and stares at it with horror- ridden eyes, however those who understand life would do otherwise. The universe follows the same course. It takes birth, develops, sometimes into other universes, and then dies out. The process had been reconstructing and renovating itself since time immemorial and will continue to do, perhaps till eternity which is indefinite and that’s why divine. As we say change is the only constant in life so it keeps on moving and transforming, from inorganic to organic and then to more complex forms, though eventually it stumbles upon where it started from, only to roll the wheel of time again- isn’t time itself an illusion. Isn’t the entire universe or perhaps multiverse a mirage, the whole perpetuity a farce, aren’t we lurching around some elliptical bole which, though, has numerous episodes of alteration but eventual fate remains same.

Imagining is essentially creative; it is a bridge reconciling matter and spirit. Especially when it is done intensely and often. Then the image turns into drop of matter, and joins the currents of life. Sometimes along the way something in its gets distorted and changes. Therefore, if they are strong enough, all human desires come true- but not always entirely as expected.

The game of life is a sort of journey, through ever transforming and regenerating worlds, on which now and then choices keep appearing. The choices make themselves, sometimes the player is under the impressions that he is making them consciously. This may frighten him, because then he will feel responsible for where he ends up and what he encounters. And that’s where ‘God’ steps in, and the player who believes in God will take it as divine judgement of God- the omnipotent, omnipresent and infinite. But he who doesn’t believe in God, he will take it as a coincidence. Sometimes the player will take it as his/ her free choice but he is sure to say this more quietly and without conviction. People are prisoners of time, they need meaning to remain sane while animals’ emotions are not clouded by thoughts, they dream incessantly and for nothing, for them, waking from the dream is death.

It was an underground rustling that sounded like a dull sigh, and then she could hear the gentle crackle of clumps of earth as the thread of the mycelium pushed its way between them.

Primeval is the microcosm of universe created and developed through various times which describe life from bygone to contemporary era amidst the episodic burst of war, brutality, non being and death. The God of such universe must be quite cruel and indifferent to his creations, for he keeps man involved in mundane activities and doesn’t let him realize his true existence, the man gets stuck in non-being and his spirit looms over graveyard to repent upon his unfulfilled existence. We see vagaries of women as enforced upon them by the cruel (masculine) universe wherein women are reduced to the portals for multiplication of life as their entire being took birth just to reproduce. The man touched his ignominy further when women are transformed into objects of desires 'which' gratify lechery of man, no matter if they wish to do or not, for their wish doesn't matter any more. Though a woman is as strong as a rock since she takes the entire universe into herself, every pain in the universe, and every hope; she knows all the secrets of life yet she is condensed to non-being by God, perhaps because God is not a woman. And there may be some worlds wherein there won't be any divisions between man and woman, both would be alike, but these worlds may be in other times than of ours or yet to exist or perhaps ceased to exist long before.

Primeval acts as some wormhole or portal of time-space continuum which may contain blackholes and matter in some other forms which are alien to out world, and the portal opens unto various new worlds, each may be having different possibilities, but why do we need other worlds when all are same. All worlds are governed by greed, lust, conceit and power, our entire history is beaming with such grand but ignoble acts built upon these qualities of humanity. We have condemned the world to death, even the God has left our world long ago or if he is still here than he must be evil since otherwise things would not have turned out the way they have- people and animals were killed in wars and God allowed pain and suffering. The world of Primeval is just like ours- ruthless, cruel and brazen but true, true in every sense whether it may be physical or metaphysical. Are the dandelions and eiderdowns and jam containers of Primeval genuine or emblematic? Is Katyn a damned spot or only a backwoods? We live amazing, wrongly, as indicated by accounts of our and others' creation, yet it very well may be pounding, irritating to secure to a dream of a world unchanged by legend or religion, one where anxiety and death rule all over the place.

The prose of the book is straightforward and simple but piercing, it consists of short vignettes which are called as ‘times’ that pan human actions and reactions, showing the inner workings of a community, the interactions between people, causes and effects, and beliefs and desires. The prose is being with written such careful precision, filled with beautiful allusions to various elements of humanity, it comes across as a long poetry. It is this human desire to allude to some references that Tokarczuk hones in on in Primeval and Other Times, the story of three generations of a small Polish village called Primeval, from 1914 to the beginnings of Solidarity in 1980. Centered around the fate of the Niebieski family (Michał, Genowefa, Misia Boska, and Izydor), whose struggles and loves during a century of war and occupation determine the book’s dramatic arc. We see the undertones of sarcasm and black humor throughout the book- the episodes about destruction of forests and the planet itself is quite penetrative. The narrative coheres in part due to the rhythmic quality of its short chapters, but there is also a vaguely allegorical quality at work.

What is war for? Who runs it? Why people go to certain death and kill others? There have been some discussions in recent times that warfare, state-collapse acted as a leveler to rectify the inequalities across our history. Should we simply learn to adapt a new gilded age? Perhaps not, however we need to flex our creative muscles, to be way more inventive to deal with our inequalities. Since even if these cataclysmic events acted as great leveler, we can’t afford to pay the price they demand, the price which may be the human existence itself or the very universe of ours from which life takes birth time and again. We have witnessed holocausts, world wars and nuclear horrors as a few examples of such levelers (wherein whole life of some people had been endless struggle and whose souls were subjugated to death even after leaving their bodies) and we certainly would not want those levelers- at least those of us who listen to heart beat of life, who understand the fabric of time but the problem is that there are very few of those of us and our species is heading towards extinction with time. And the God turned men towards each other, everyone who was cured was killed during the war. That is how God manifests Himself. He who understands the world will suffer most. God would also like to die (perhaps to escape the existential horror of the world) even if He doesn’t exist, for He is infinite.

Everything within its dead expanse, every living thing was hapless and alone. Things were happening by accident, and when the accident failed, automatic law appeared- the rhythmical machinery of nature, the cogs and pistons of history, conformity with the rules that was rotting everywhere. Every creature was trying to huddle up to something, to cling to something, to things, to each other, but all that resulted was suffering and despair.

As life takes birth from the ruins of destruction, life in Primeval blooms again, gradually expanding its wings to realize its full potential. World becomes different once more, times get changed. As we do in life, Tokarczuk’s characters try to solve the problem of their existence by analyzing the signs and symbols available to them. But how you help someone who has seen death, he who is seized with horror that soon he, too would change into a lifeless scrap of flesh, and that would be all that would be left of him. The realization brings tears to human eye who perhaps get blinded due to his qualities of greed and lust and unable to see that there is no birth or death- just an immortal process repeating itself time and again. And he who learns to forget would find relief. A strange image, nearly absurd in its symbolism, though in this glorious book such a claim strikes us as reasonable, even enlightening.

The books reminds me of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez since both books talks about eternity of life, the regeneration of universe. As I finished the book I felt as if death touched me but in its wholeness, for birth and death are just the same. And I felt certain sort of peace and satisfaction as if I’ve come back after a long tour of universe right from its birth to death to its birth again then to its death again further to its birth………...

Either God exists and has always existed, or”- here he added the second finger- “God doesn’t exist and never has. Or else”- the third appeared- “God used to exist, but no longer does. And finally,”- here he poked all four fingers at Izydor- “God doesn’t exist and has to appear.”
Profile Image for Guille.
755 reviews1,540 followers
February 10, 2021

Tokarczuk dice en su primera frase de esta preciosa novela que “Antaño es un lugar en el centro del universo” (perdonen que empiece con la misma frase que se cita en tooooodas las reseñas que de esta novela he leído, pero no lo sabía cuando la empecé a escribir y es que la frase recoge tan bien lo que busca la novela…). En efecto, no hay sitio que no sea un lugar en el centro del universo, el sitio en el que vive usted que ahora me lee, en el que yo vivo, pues no hay lugar más real que aquel en el que transcurre nuestra vida y no hay sitio en el mundo en el que no sucedan o hayan sucedido sucesos similares a los que la autora polaca sitúa en Antaño, ni lugar que sus fronteras no sean la curiosidad, la codicia, la soberbia y la estupidez. No es pues la historia de Polonia en el siglo XX, como he leído por ahí. Antaño es lo que somos y siempre seremos.
“La gente nace, ama con desesperación y encuentra repentinamente la muerte, que se halla en todas partes. Pero cuanto más sufrimiento les da la vida, más desean vivir.

(¿No les recuerda la cita a aquel chiste de Woody Allen, aquel en el que una señora comenta a su amiga, hay que ver lo mala que es aquí la comida. A lo que su amiga responde, sí, sí, y además qué pequeñas son las raciones?)
En “Un lugar llamado Antaño” se cuenta la historia de tres generaciones de una familia en la que el paso del tiempo, la fugacidad de la existencia, ocupa un lugar destacado y en la que el protagonismo coral es compartido por personas, plantas, animales y cosas.
“Se sentía desilusionado. Creía que la vejez abría el tercer ojo con el que se percibía absolutamente todo y permitía comprender los mecanismos del mundo. Pero nada se volvió más claro. Solo le dolían los huesos y se pasaba las noches en vela.”
Amor y odio, envidia y generosidad, sacrificio y crueldad, ambición y lealtad, esperanza y abatimiento, lucha y resignación… mucho peso quizás para que el hombre no tenga que recurrir a dioses, brujas, ángeles custodios, lugares mágicos o malignos, mitos y espíritus que anidan en las cosas que siempre son más que meras cosas, en las personas que siempre se creen más que meras personas.
“Las cosas son entes inmersos en otra realidad, donde no hay tiempo ni movimiento. Sólo se ve su superficie. El resto, oculto en otro lugar, determina el significado y el sentido de cada objeto material. Por ejemplo, el del molinillo de café. El molinillo es un trozo de materia al que se le ha infundido la idea de la molienda. Los molinillos muelen y por eso existen. Pero nadie sabe qué significa realmente un molinillo.”
Ni sabemos qué significa realmente el hombre ni a qué está destinado, ni sabemos qué significa realmente el mundo. Hasta Dios, en este universo cerrado que tan brillantemente crea Tokarczuk, duda de si es él el creador o el creado, si fue Caín quién mató a Abel o al contrario, si la creación conduce a algo, si cambia algo, si no es más que vanidad.
“–Lo importante no es si Dios existe o no. No se trata de eso. Creer o no creer, esa es la cuestión. –Yo creo que existe –dijo Izydor… Si existe, se me tendrá en cuenta que creo. Si no existe, tampoco me cuesta nada creer. –Tienes razón –le elogió Iván Mukta–. Pero no es verdad que la fe no cueste nada.”
A los que están acostumbrados al realismo mágico de los grandes maestros este libro puede que no les llegue a impresionar, al menos a mí no me sorprendió tanto como lo hizo su particular “Los errantes”, muy distinto al actual aunque ambos mantengan una estructura fragmentaria, una prosa sencilla para representar cuestiones complejas y reflejen de igual manera la gran inventiva y agudeza con la que cuenta su autora.
“Todo irá bien –dijo la señorita Popielski–. Ahora el mundo no es lo que era. Es mejor, más grande y claro. Hay vacunas contra las enfermedades, no hay guerras, la gente vive mucho más… ¿No estás de acuerdo? Misa miró los posos del vaso y negó con la cabeza.”
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
778 reviews
April 17, 2019
Imagine a district shaped like a square, its four borders corresponding to the four cardinal points, and with straight roads and rivers marking those boundaries. Imagine that this square district is made up of sections, each section connected to the others, not only those it borders but sections further away too as if long trailing threads of different colors linked the various sections together as in embroidery or a patchwork quilt.

This book is such a patchwork quilt. It tells of a four-sided district called Primeval in a series of seemingly unrelated stories. But the stories are connected through the intertwining threads of the characters, one of whom is obsessed by the number four.

One of the main threads is the miller, Michał, who, at the beginning of the book, returns to Primeval from WWI, carrying a pot bellied Russian coffee grinder in his knapsack.
Another of the threads is his granddaughter Adelka who leaves Primeval in the 1970s carrying the same coffee grinder in her luggage. I liked the circularity of the story of the round coffee grinder within the square frame of the larger story.

The history of the miller's family connects the reader to the other characters who live in Primeval, especially to the people who live in the forest which is both the centre of the district and the heart of the story. The forest represents everything that the square district is not. The forest is shapeless, its borders are difficult to pin down, and it seems completely removed from the twentieth century and from its history.

Three of the book's characters live in the forest and they are weird and wonderful creations. One is a werewolf character who seems to have crossed over from another Tokarczuk book. He avoids all contact with regular people. The other two, a mother and daughter who resemble Demeter and Persephone, interact with the other characters, influencing many of their lives. The daughter eventually leaves Primeval. When she does, the mother, whose name is Cornspike, returns to the heart of the forest and her destiny is not mentioned again. I found I wanted to give her a destiny so I imagined that she had eventually merged so well with the Primeval forest that she became entirely covered in moss and lived on there forever.
That's why I was so struck by something I came across while out walking the other day. It was sitting on a new and very straight path that has recently been laid alongside a forest area near where I live, and it immediately reminded me of this book. I imagined it had been left behind by Cornspike.

Only four of Olga Tokarczuk's books have been translated into English as yet. I've now read all four.
That number four again!
Profile Image for Neva.
Author 52 books532 followers
February 6, 2017
Харесва ми. Павичов привкус. Богата чувствителност и прецизен, любящ език към нея. Токарчук взема един широк отрязък от полската история - няколко от най-травматичните десетилетия на бездруго безумния ХХ в. - и го разказва през премеждията на също широка група хора, която съжителства в почти митичния малък Правек. Това е правено, разбира се, и доста, такова хорално повествование, в което големите събития са пречупени прочувствено през малките хора и пр., и пр. И именно защото е правено, Олга Токарчук има двойна заслуга: не е нито скучна, нито съвсем предвидима, нито да прочетеш книгата й представлява някакво повторение или ненужно усилие. Напротив. Харесва ми много.

И тук имам едно важно уточнение по качеството на това, което си купих от уважаваните от мен Алтера за 15 лева: то е един чудесен ръкопис под интересна корица, но не и готова книга. Разликата между ръкописа и готовата книга е времето (като говорим за Правек и неговите времена), което МИНИМУМ двама компетентни читатели са вложили, за да изчистят всички граматични, правописни, смислови и други шупли. Тези минимум двама професионалисти са редакторът и коректорът. В "Правек" фигурират съответни имена, но работата не е свършена: ако си затворя едното око, мога да кажа, че грешките на страница са средно по две. Това прави 500 в целия текст. Текст с 500 грешки е несправедливост спрямо читателите и автора, да не говорим, че излага издателството. Текст с 500 грешки е като да слушаш симфонична музика през постоянно пращене. Тази книга е в неготов вид, но се продава като готова. Тя е нежна и умна и е преведена с чувство и разбиране, но е пусната по книжарниците и обществените/личните библиотеки недовършена. Това аз намирам за нередно. И го виждам. И не съм съгласна.

Често попадам на неизпипани книги и не ги дочитам, не си правя труда да ги коментирам, не ми се занимава. Но тази тук си има ВСИЧКО, което е нужно, за да бъде отлично четиво, а издателството вместо да й помогне, й е попречило.

Казах, че на страница има по средно по две грешки - те са всякакви (по-редки в началото и доста повече във втората половина). Неправилна употреба на пълен и кратък член, точка след заглавие, шпация преди запетая, лоши преноси на нов ред (на самата корица пише, че книгата е за вечнос-тта), липсващи или разместени букви (чекмежде, извендъж, плантенетна, казава, забляза, чоквека, обрасал, смесТТа...), запетая след подлог или между прилагателно и съществително, мн. число "божий" - абе цялата палитра коректорски опущения. Докато преводачът може да си позволи да предаде ръкописа с всички гореописани проблеми, защото неговата работа е много, ама много по-комплексна от това да следи пълния член (макар че в идеалния вариант и него не бива пропуска), за коректора е недопустимо да го предаде нататък в такъв вид - основното му задължение е да отстранява именно тези неща.

Редакторската работа трябваше да е туширала (а не е) двете грешни тенденции на преводача (чийто труд иначе, повтарям, е радост за четене):
1. Да оставя в оригинал имена на светци/библейски персонажи - това е базисно правило в превода, абсурд е да не се спазва и да чета за ХИОБ, комуто Господ отнел всичко (всъщност ЙОВ) или за архангелите Рафаел и Габриел (РАФАИЛ и ГАВРАИЛ на български). Или за деня на св. Ян, който в текста уж е в късната есен, но малко по-нататък се оказва, че е през юни, сиреч е Еньовден. Св. Михаил се явява и като Михал, etc.
2. Често да употребява минало несвършено време на места, където трябва да е минало свършено ("Тя го чакаше цял следобед" не е същото като "Тя го чака цял следобед"). "Легнаха на пода и се опираха в себе си като треви" за мен на български е безсмислено. Догаждам се, че е "Легнаха на пода и се опряха/долепиха един до друг като треви/тревни стръкове." А това е като писано от чужденец: "...каза весело и занасяше в къщата нещата на лейтенанта". Занесе или започна да носи!

Ако книгата беше редактирана, нямаше на единия ред да е Кармилия, а пет реда по-долу - Кармила; нямаше "негов" и "свой" да са сбъркани на повече от едно място ("оставяше го на своето място в чекмеджето" значи, че не ножът, а Миша е имала обичайно място в чекмеджето!); нямаше да се дивя как така на Клоска й се явява МЛАДЕНЕЦ ("бебе" на български) и тя прави любов с него (може би "младеж" все пак?), а Рута пъхва ръка "под рамото" на Уклея (пробвах, не става); нямаше да се чудя дали елегантната снимка на мама "с кърпа на челото" не значи "с воал" например и какво са "формени свински костички", "салфетки от конци", "тлъсти реки" или "дървени бали"; нямаше масурите на равина да са наречени "пирги", ружата в пасторалната картинка да е с латинското си название "алцеа", столът да има не подлакътници, а "перила", и таванското помещение (мансардата) да е "стряха" (спи ли човек в стряхата?). Думата "литания" (ед.ч, множественото е "литании") не само е дадена погрешно сякаш е мн.ч., но е и обяснена под черта като "Литание - молитва, в която..."

Ако по ръкописа беше работено на ниво издателство, полското "trefl" нямаше да е дадено с "осмица трефа", а с "осмица спатия". "Можеше (Рута) да се отнася към него (Уклея) като голямо болно животно" значи, че голямото животно е Рута (от контекста става ясно, че е впиянченият Уклея). Първите три пъти "грудка пръст" ми се стори някаква особена метафоричност, но на четвъртия взех да подозирам, че става дума за "буци пръст" (вж. "грудка" в речника). За мен е изумително как при жива авторка, 62-и набор, с електронна поща, фейсбук профил и не знам какво още, вместо да я попиташ "капитан" или "полковник" е имала предвид, слагаш бележка под линия: "Евентуална грешка в оригинала. Еди-кой си първоначално е даден като полковник, а после като капитан." Паметник под черта на нежеланието нещата да се доведат до край.

Имам и следното чудене: на сръбски заглавието е "Памтивек и други времена", на английски е "Primeval and other times", на испански - "En un lugar llamado antaño" ("Място, наречено Някога"). Защо полското Prawiek, което на български звучи по-скоро като дошло от "прав" (ашладисано върху Болек и Лолек), отколкото от "пра- + век", не е преведено и на български? Някой у нас разбира ли, че това "други времена" е защото самото "пра-век" е време? Мисля, че нещо интересно и важно е попиляно тук.

Ето и най-непоносимият пример от цялата книга, букет от несвършени работи:

На "Sopki Mand?urii12" Павел взимаше цигулката си и се присъединяваше към дуета.

1. 12 трябва да излезе от кавичките и да се вдигне с умален шрифт в горния им десен ъгъл - това е цифричката, която насочва към бележката под линия.
2. Въпросителната в Mand?urii е очевидно изпаднала буква с диакритичен знак - често стават такива неща при странирането, очаква се да ги отстраняват коректорите.
3. Бележката под линия гласи: "Sopki Manzurii" (Сопки Манджурии)- популярна по това време песен (валс)." Освен че има коректорски пропуск (липсващата шпация пред тирето), това изречение е невярно и немарливо.
4. Песента се казва "На сопках Маньчжурии" в оригиналния си вид на руски и "На хълмовете на Манджурия" на български ("сопки" на нашия език може да е "малки сопи", но не е това случаят). Толкова е любима в Русия, че един от героите на великия "Урга" я има татуирана на гърба си. Извън Русия тя също е много известна, даже има статия за нея в българската Уикипедия и (преди поне, напоследък не знам) музиката, с която открива прожекциите си София филм фест, е тъкмо тази.

Искам да добавя едно последно нещо. ВСИЧКИ допускаме грешки. Неизбежно е, побъркващо е, естествено е, човешко е. Но между "не сме безгрешни" и "не сме компетентни"/"не ни пука" има гигантска разлика. Същата, която се простира като океан между това да се стараеш да си вършиш работата (и тук-таме да се подхлъзваш неволно) и това съзнателно да я пре��упаш. Първото е в повечето случаи разбираемо и простимо. Второто е срамота. Повярвайте ми, всичко изброено по-горе е съвсем ОК за ръкопис. Не и за книга по книжарниците. "Правек и други времена" на Олга Токарчук е един достоен роман, който си заслужава да прочетете; преводът му е внимателен и жив; оформлението е добро, трайно (обичам книгата да не ми се разпада в ръцете). Факт е обаче, че в това издание на Алтера получавате недообработен ръкопис. "Изплашените крави се втурнаха в тръст през лехите..."
Profile Image for ·Karen·.
614 reviews762 followers
January 7, 2020
And Izydor looked again, just as Ivan Mutka had told him to. He strained his entire imagination and opened his eyes wide, until they started to water. Then for a brief moment he saw everything completely differently. Open space, empty and endless, stretched away in all directions. Everything within this dead expanse, every living thing was helpless and alone. Things were happening by accident, and when the accident failed, automatic law appeared - the rhythmical machinery of nature, the cogs and pistons of history, conformity with the rules that was rotting from the inside and crumbling to dust. Cold and sorrow reigned everywhere. Every living creature was trying to huddle up to something, to cling to something, to things, to each other, but all that resulted was suffering and despair.
The quality of what Izydor saw was temporality. Under a colourful outer coating everything was merging in collapse, decay, and destruction.

But that would be unbearable. No-one could stand that kind of vision for long. This place, this primeval place is peopled with all of those things we cling to: narratives of guardian angels, of ghosts, of wise women (or are they madwomen?) who can commune with animals, can sense scent trails and warm, live corridors under the ground, who know that animals see two moons although we humans see but one, who are driven by primal instincts and can get child by masterwort.... Stories of a God - here somewhat sidelined and still on a journey of self-discovery. Tales of the devil, of sorcery. The alignment of planets. Changeling children. The sense that a river might have an animus, and indeed a malevolent one. Ideas the men seem to subscribe to, that there will be progress in all things, that training courses and promotion and building an extension to the house will in some way prevent your life being meaningless.
Or that game.
The game that absorbs Squire Popielski, a labyrinth that will draw him in until nothing else matters. Is this the key to the whole novel? A sort of instruction manual for the journey that the reader also takes? It's tempting to see it that way:
The game is a sort of journey, on which now and then choices keep appearing. The choices make themselves, but sometimes the player is under the impression that he is making them consciously.
My conscious choice is to decide whether a coffee grinder is just a coffee grinder or whether it has symbolic meaning.
But beware! The name of the game is Ignis Fatuus:
Definition of ignis fatuus
1 : a light that sometimes appears in the night over marshy ground and is often attributable to the combustion of gas from decomposed organic matter
2 : a deceptive goal or hope
(I hear Tokarczuk quietly laughing)
There's no hope of deciding, there's no need to either: Primeval is both: both a mythical and a real place, the people are both: both types and genuine, compassionate, affecting people, and the coffee grinder can grind coffee or stand for human collaboration, hope, dreams and continuity. AND have the appearance of the eternally female.

A marvel.
Profile Image for Hugh.
1,256 reviews49 followers
December 31, 2016
This is an intriguingly unusual book, and not one I feel I understood well enough to review adequately. It is an allegorical modern fairy tale set in a Polish village as it is subjected to the vagaries of twentieth century history. Tokarczuk's vision has a creator God at its centre, but one who has lost much of his power, and the whole thing is suffused with a rather surreal folklorish atmosphere.
Profile Image for И~N.
253 reviews239 followers
April 20, 2021
И след втория прочит след години, и след няколко други книги на Токарчук: тази остава за мен най-силната й.
Скоро ще кажа повече защо.
Казах ето тук.
Profile Image for Sweet Jane.
115 reviews179 followers
February 12, 2020
Η ευρωπαϊκή λογοτεχνία μπορεί να καμαρώνει επιτέλους που απέκτησε μια γνήσια φωνή του μαγικού ρεαλισμού στην επικράτεια της. Ξεχωριστό βιβλίο, τόσο ποιητικό και ανθρώπινο συνάμα.
Profile Image for Pedro.
191 reviews401 followers
December 2, 2021
When I was in my teens I became my History teacher’s worse nightmare. Not because I didn’t like to dwell on the past but because I could never quite believe things were as straightforward as I was expected to think they were. Basically, I was (and still am) obsessed with questioning everything (past, present and future!).

Questions like “Who did?”, “Why?”, “How come?”, “When did that happen?”, “How can you know for sure?”, “Were you there?”, “Who said so?” or even “Who decided what’s a matter of fact and what isn’t?” have always been among my favourites, and I can totally understand why the History teacher thought I was such an annoying skinny bastard. Yes, I was well on my way to becoming the pain in the neck I am today. The thing is I couldn’t (and still can’t) help myself with the (over)use of questioning.

It’s an addiction, I admit, and don’t believe I’ll ever get rid of it without therapy!

Gosh, just the thought of a psychologist asking me something like “So, Pedro, why are you here?, How can I help you?” and me answering “Well, Doctor, I’m addicted to question marks!” is enough to make me want to punch myself, which is something I’d probably need to keep to myself, unless I want to bring other psychological problems to the table, right?

Right, I think none of us needs to be an historian, or even think too hard, to realise that History keeps repeating itself over and over again. Or shall we say that History only seems to repeat itself because we keep telling the same stories over and over again?

I think I’ll stick with the second option and, based on what I just read, I think Olga Tokarczuk does too.

I thought Drive Your Plow was a good attempt to go mainstream, Flights was completely amazing and relevant, and this one, originally published in 1996, is one of the most haunting novels I have ever read.

To be completely honest, I’ll have to admit that there’s so much packed within its pages that I’m not even sure I got everything from it. Hence the four stars. If I had to use one word to describe what this story is about I’d go for “time”. Not the time marked by the hands of a ticking clock and History books but time as an abstract concept that will never reveal itself completely.

Obviously, I do believe humans evolved over time, started farming, created art, and drove airplanes against skyscrapers. What I can’t buy is the fact that all these events always seem to be described and explained in such a simple, one sided, and assured way.
Nah! I’m not sure about what this might say about me but I’m definitely sticking to Tokarczuk’s mythical and at the same time humanistically flawed way of seeing the world. Yup, I choose to live in doubt.

War is the first plague, bringing the others in its wake and, as far as I’m concerned, there’s a big difference between propaganda and what we might want to call History.
Profile Image for Erasmia Kritikou.
264 reviews89 followers
May 23, 2020
"Στην αρχή δεν υπήρχε Θεός. Δεν υπήρχε ούτε χρόνος, ούτε χώρος. Υπήρχε μόνο φως και σκοτάδι. Και ήταν τέλεια."


Πόσο το απολαμβάνω οταν πεφτω πανω σε βιβλία που με κανουν να ξεχνώ το κινητο μου και τις δουλειες που εχω, να κοιμαμαι μ' αυτα στο χερι, και να ξυπναω αναζητωντας τα, να ονειροπολω αναλυοντας την υποθεση στο μυαλο μου στη διαρκεια της μερας...
Το βιβλιο της Τοκαρτσουκ ειναι ενα απο αυτα τα βιβλία.
Ειναι ενα εργο σημαντικό, ενα εργο τέχνης, που πιστευω ότι θα εδραιωθει με τον χρονο στα Κλασσικά.

Το βιβλιο αυτο ειχε απ' ολα: Ειχε Φανταστικό, που εφτανε ως τα ορια της Επιστημονικής Φαντασιας, ειχε θεολογικο (που περιλαμβανε λιγο απ ολες τις θρησκειες) ειχε μυθοπλασια αλλα και ρεαλισμο, πραγματικα γεγονοτα (α και β παγκοσμιος, σοβιετικη ενωση, σταλινισμος) που πλεκονταν μεσα σε μυθικά, ειχε και δραμα αλλα ειχε και αστειο, ειχε θεωρια αλλα και μαθηματικά, ειχε θεοφοβουμενο αλλα και Αθεο ή αθεοφοβο, περιειχε ζωη αλλα και θανατο, περιέκλειε μεσα του την αντιθεση της τρυφεροτητας της παιδικης ηλικιας αλλα και τη σκληροτητα της ενηλικης , ηταν και γυναικοκεντρικο μ ενα ηχηρο Κατηγορω της πατριαρχίας μεσα στους αιωνες, ειχε γελιο κι ειχε δακρυ, ειχε γοητεια, ειχε ολα οσα θα 'ψαχνε κανεις σ' ενα ονειρικο εργοχειρο με λέξεις - κι ακομη περισσοτερα.

Δεν ειναι ενα ευκολο βιβλιο κατα τη γνωμη μου. Το διάβασμά του απαιτουσε συγκεντρωση κι ησυχια,
καθε μια λεξη ειναι σημαντική και ο ειρμος πλεκεται σαν κισσος γυρω απ την υποθεση.

Την πρωτη φορα που το επιασα το αφησα στην ακρη γιατι με μπερδεψε και μου φανηκε απαιτητικο.
Μετα δεν μπορεσα να τ αφησω απ τα χερια μου και το τελειωσα σε 40 ωρες, εχοντας ακομη πολλα να κανω που αφησα γυρω μου στην αναμονη για να τελειωσω το βιβλιο, βαζοντας το απολυτη προτεραιοτητα.
Για μενα ηταν απ αυτα τα απολυτως γοητευτικα βιβλια, τοσο καθηλωτικό που στο μυαλο σου παζαρευεις ακομη και στην τουαλετα να πας, για να μη σηκωθεις και το αφησεις.

Η γλωσσα ειναι εξωπραγματικά σαγηνευτική, σαν τις Σειρηνες του Οδυσσεα, ενωνονται η μια μεσα στην αλλη οι ιστοριουλες σαν κοτσιδες, σαν ελευθερες ριζες δεντρων στη ζουγκλα σε τραβανε και σε τυλιγουν και δεν ξεφευγεις απ την σαγηνη, δινει υποσταση σε καθε τι εμψυχο και αψυχο και κανει σημαντικο το μικρο, αυτο που δε θα παρατηρουσες, δε θα του εδινες σημασια, θα το προσπερνουσες και μαλλον θα το ποδοπατουσες σ ενα δασος, αγνοωντας ακομη και το οτι υπαρχει. Εχει, ας πουμε ενα σημαντικο κεφαλαιο για τη ζωη του μυκητα, που ειναι τοσο ομορφο, που μου ρθε να κλαψω. Εχει ενα ακομη για τη ζωη των δεντρων, που την παρομοιαζει με αιωνιο υπνο, μ αιωνοβιο ονειρο, που εκπνέει αταραξια και αιωνιοτητα. Πραγματευεται θεματα φιλοσοφικα για την ζωη και τη μη ζωη, τον θάνατο και την αδρανεια.

"Οι ανθρωποι σκεφτονται πως ζουν πιο εντονα απο τα ζωα, απο τα φυτα, και ακομη περισσότερο απο τ' αντικειμενα. Τα ζωα αισθανονται πως ζουν πιο εντονα απ τα φυτα και τ αντικειμενα. Αλλά τ αντικειμενα διαρκουν, κι αυτη η διαρκεια σημαινει περισσοτερη ζωη απο οτιδηποτε αλλο."

Αυτή η γυναικα, μ αυτη τη σκεψη που εχει, μ' εκανε να κραταω συνεχεια σημειωσεις.

Απολαυσα ιδιαιτερα τον μπορχεσιανο τροπο γραφης, αυτο το ονειρωδες, το λαβυρινθικό και το παιγνιωδες της ζωης με ζαρια και φιγουρες, ειχε ενα ινσεψιον οπου ολοι οι ανθρωποι εχουν ελευθερη βουληση κι επιλογες στη ζωη και Τυχαιο, αλλα κινουνται και βαση σχεδιου, ριχνει ζαρια ενας Παιχτης, η ζωη αποτελει ενα "Διδακτικο παιχνιδι για εναν παιχτη" αχ δεν μπορω να σας το περιγραψω, ειναι τοσο ομορφα ολα αυτα που γραφει.
Δε φοβαται ν αναμετρηθει με τον Θεο, τον περιγραφει. Του δινει υποσταση και ζωη, τον εμφανιζει συχνα να παρεμβαλλεται στο εργο, και να χανεται τις στιγμες που πιο πολυ θα πρεπε να εμφανιστει.

"Οταν έφτιαξε τον άνθρωπο συνήλθε, επειδή του έκανε τοσο μεγάλη εντύπωση. Εγκατέλειψε τη σκέψη να συνεχίσει να δημιουργεί και τωρα, τη θεική του ώρα, καθόταν και θαυμαζε το δημιούργημά του. Όσο πιο βαθια διείσδυε το βλέμμα του Θεού στο εσωτερικό του ανθρώπου, τόσο πιο θερμή γινόταν η αγάπη του για τον άνθρωπο.
Ωστοσο ο ανθρωπος αποδείχθηκε αχάριστος, αφοσιωθηκε στην καλλιεργεια της γης και στην αναπαραγωγή του και δεν εδινε σημασία στον Θεό. Τότε, στη σκέψη του Θεού εμφανίστηκε μια θλίψη απ΄οπου ξεπήδησε το σκοτάδι.
Ο Θεος ερωτευτηκε τον ανθρωπο χωρις ανταποκριση. "

και μπλεκει μεσα και στοιχεια ινδουιστικα ( η Λευκή και η Μαύρη, τα ποταμια γιν και γιαν, τα οχτω επιπεδα του ουρανου κ.α.) στοιχεια μυθολογιας - αναφερεται σε μυθους αρχαιοελληνικούς και παγανιστικά στοιχεια. Δειχνει με τον τροπο αυτο οτι η θρησκεια ειναι ενα στοιχειο πανανθρωπινο, ειναι η αναγκη του ανθρωπου να εχει εναν θεο, ενα σχεδιο δημιουργιας, περα απο τις επιμερους εκκλησιες που την εκφραζουν.


Ο Θεος βλέπει
Ο καιρός τρέχει
Ο θάνατος κυνηγά
Η αιωνιότητα περιμένει.

Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books925 followers
February 1, 2020
From the get-go, this book struck some elemental chords within, sending me back to the innocence-that-wasn't we call childhood.

Set in Poland in the early 20th century at the start, it seemed much older than that, reminiscent of folk and fairy tales, particularly those rooted in our agricultural past. I can't remember the story, but I read one as a child about a turnip no one could seem to yank out of the ground. This, then, seemed like that---almost quaint in its "lost world" way, so far, far away from the technological "progress" we've experienced since.

All that said, there's nothing innocent at all about Tokarczuk's story here. Brutal things invade the cast of characters in this small Polish town. Forget pastoral idylls, this is more akin to the dark fairy tales of the Brothers Accent-on-Grimm. The un-Disneyfied ones.

Cruelty, Death, Greed, Death, Jealousy, Death, Desire, Death, Sickness, Death, Old Age, Death, Rape, and did I mention Death? They are characters, too, playing out before a rather too-human and too-frail God. The people are mere pawns. Life happens to them, and no one gets out alive.

Meaning? Upbeat this is not.

But it is well-written. And knowledgeable. And it understands the human heart all too well. You may recognize some myths or echos of myths and you may not. Or you may be like me, just thinking this character or that thought sounds familiar.

The character Cornspike, for instance, who reminded me of a female version of the Green Man. And there's a Bad Man from the woods, too. But he's nothing compared to your garden-variety men, specifically those related to the war when first the Germans and then the Russians invade Poland's soil. War takes the challenges of life and amplifies them one hundred fold.

You may well relate more to some characters than others. Rest assured if you do, it will be one of the women. That said, there is no main character but life, really. Life in all its Buddhist splendor, that is, where youth and hopes and dreams are all stolen and desires do nothing but rob you of your spirit.

And here I am, finishing it only 15 days before Christmas. Such a jolly good mood buster! But that's just a quirk of the timing. Tokarczuk uses simple yet complex people (no doubt you'll see yourself in some of them) to show the grim canvas of our appearances, brief performances, and ignoble exits. Rustic like Hamsun, maybe, but memorable. I won't soon forget it, even if it wasn't exactly fun reading it.
Profile Image for Intellectual_Thighs.
237 reviews348 followers
March 3, 2020
Ουώπ. Γουάτ κάιντ οφ σόρσερι ιζ δις; Το Αρχέγονο βρίσκεται στο κέντρο του σύμπαντος και φυλάσσεται από τέσσερις Αρχαγγέλους. Είναι ένα μυθικό αλλά και πραγματικό χωριό, μια μικρογραφία της κεντρικής Ευρώπης, όπου όλα εντός του είναι ζωντανά, άνθρωποι και ζώα, άγγελοι και δέντρα, ψυχές και σπίτια, με σύνορα που τους κρατάνε όλους εντός του, οτιδήποτε έξω από αυτό είναι χονδροειδώς πλασμένο, κόσμος του μάινκραφτ. Η ανάγνωση του βιβλίου είναι σαν να κοιτάς μέσα από ένα βιού μάστερ την ιστορία καθενός ήρωα του χωριού, είτε είναι άνθρωπος είτε μανιτάρι, ο Θεός ή ένας σκύλος, πατάς το κουμπί και πας στην επόμενη ιστορία και ξανά από την αρχή, όλα πλέκονται, όλα συνδέονται, όλα φτιάχνουν την ασπρόμαυρη ατμόσφαιρα του περίεργου αυτού χωριού. Παρακολουθούμε τρεις γενιές κατοίκων, από τον πρώτο παγκόσμιο μέχρι τα 80ς, όλη η ιστορία της Πολωνίας και το παράλληλο Διδακτικό Παιχνίδι ενός εκκεντρικού βαρόνου, ένα παιχνίδι ζωής γεμάτο αλληγορίες. Αυτό που κάνει η Τοκάρτσουκ αβάδιστα και αβίαστα στον χώρο της, είναι να δίνει τη ματιά της σε βαθιά υπαρξιακά ερωτήματα, γράφοντας έτσι ένα φιλοσοφικό βιβλίο, καμουφλαρισμένο από πανέμορφα γραμμένα παραμύθια που στην πρώτη ευκαιρία ανασηκώνονται και φανερώνουν την ουσία του γραπτού της. Φυσάς πάνω από την ιστορία των οικογενειών Νιεμπιέσκι και Μπόσκι και ξεπετάγεται ο θάνατος, ο χρόνος, το νόημα της ζωής, η πίστη, η βία, η αγάπη, η μοναξιά. Δώστε στην κυρία άλλο ένα Νόμπελ από μένα, αυτή τη φορά όχι στα δύο, δεν θέλω τσιγκουνιές, γιατί αν έγραψε κάτι τέτοιο στα 33 της, θέλω να δω πού εκτοξεύτηκε.
Profile Image for Sotiria.
230 reviews45 followers
March 29, 2020
Το Αρχέγονο είναι ένα μικρό χωριό με σύνορα ορατά και αόρατα, ονειρικά και εφιαλτικά. Είναι μια κουκκίδα στο χάρτη και ολόκληρος ο κόσμος μαζί. Στο σκοτεινό δάσος που το περιτριγυρίζει,στα πέτρινα σπίτια του και στ' αρχοντικά του ξετυλίγονται οι ιστορίες δεκάδων πλασμάτων, όχι πάντα ανθρωπόμορφων αλλά σίγουρα ανθρώπινων. Τον πρωταρχικό λόγο τον έχουν οι γυναίκες - σε αντίθεση με τόσες άλλες αφηγήσεις για περιόδους πολέμου που πρωταγωνιστούν αποκλειστικά οι άντρες. Η Olga Tokarczuk παρουσιάζει τη γυναίκα και τη θηλυκότητα σε όλες τις μορφές της, με όλη την ομορφιά και την ασχήμια που αυτές κουβαλάνε, μέσα σε τοπία και καταστάσεις όπου το παράξενο φως και το αδιαπέραστο σκοτάδι του Αρχέγονου εναλλάσσονται ραγδαία. Οι συμβολισμοί δεκάδες και όχι πάντα εύκολο να αποσαφηνιστούν, αλλά αυτό προσδίδει ακόμη περισσότερη μαγεία στην ιστορία, σε τραβά ακόμα πιο βαθιά στον κόσμο που έφτιαξε η συγγραφέας χρησιμοποιώντας υλικά από την ίδια της την πατρίδα, από το ίδιο το αίμα των συμπατριωτών της.
Ένα βιβλίο-εμπειρία όπου "η εικόνα", οι λέξεις,"μετατρέπ[ονται] σε μια σταγόνα ύλης και ενών[ονται] με τα ρεύματα της ζωής".
52 reviews252 followers
July 13, 2022
Adorei este livro! Todas as histórias e personagens vivem num limbo entre a realidade e a fantasia ou mais até entre a realidade e a poesia.
Fez-me muito lembrar a escrita do Valter Hugo Mãe que eu adoro também.
Acompanhamos 3 gerações de famílias de Outrora que como diz a autora " é um lugar situado no centro do universo". É muito triste mas muito belo.
Ao terminar este livro e depois de reflectir sobre ele, fico com a sensação que o personagem principal do livro não é nenhum dos humanos mas sim a natureza, e que bela ideia essa.
Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books781 followers
March 13, 2020
I don’t generally get along with fables or allegories, but this is much more than a fable or an allegory. It’s rich and full; the characters more than archetypes, though some characteristics are borrowed from mythology and fairy tales—the brutal ones.

Primeval seems a mythical world, one hard for a villager to escape, though not many think to do so. The first male character is forced to leave by an outside war (WWI) and, as he does, his home starts to feel like a dream. Primeval, and its environs, may feel enclosed, but war (WWII) still comes to it. The place and people are changed by war’s ravages.

A timeless God is contrasted with the God of an obsessive Game played by a depressed Squire. As the twentieth-century moves along with its obsessive creation of more and more stuff, deaths are tethered to the world instead of souls rising out of Time.

The Time of the Dead imprisoned those who naively reckoned you don’t have to learn death, those who had failed death like an exam. And the more the world moved forwards, the more it extolled life, the more firmly attached to life it was, the larger a crowd prevailed in the Time of the Dead and the noisier the cemeteries became. For only here did the dead gradually gain consciousness after life and find they had lost the time granted to them. Only after death did they discover the secret of life, and it was a futile discovery. (page 182)

At first I struggled with the book’s appellation of “Other Times,” but I had a breakthrough near the end with Tokarczuk’s explanations through trees, their roots, and the proliferation of mushrooms. With the trees, I was reminded of Ali Smith, though Tokarczuk’s prose style is different.

And now he realised where his sense of lack was coming from, the sorrow that underlay everything, the sorrow that was present in every single thing, in every phenomenon, and always had been—it is impossible to grasp everything at once. (page 163)

Yes, it is “impossible to grasp everything at once,” but Tokarczuk comes close to being able to do so. And as I turn to shelve this book, I am confronted by my copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude and realize Primeval is as timeless, and as timeworn, as Macondo.
Profile Image for Caro the Helmet Lady.
762 reviews345 followers
March 6, 2021
This book was written 25 years ago. I honestly can't believe it, because it feels so fresh and I've read my share of literature to become picky enough. This was such a delight to read for many reasons. It was beautifully written (oh, the tricks she did with words!!! the tricks she did with my mind through those words!), it was interesting. And while weaving seemingly simple stories of inhabitants of Primeval she padded it all with deeper meanings, with a search for God, gods and true nature of things. And with a humor in most unexpected moments.
I'll confess that I prefer now PAOT to Flights that I read a couple of years ago, because while enjoying the latter on intellectual level I somehow didn't connect with it. It left me unmoved. With this book it was different. It "clicked" with me as a reader and as a person too many times. Sometimes it was psychedelic, sometimes too realistic. I liked it both ways. I don't have much to say about it because I'm still marinating in the aftertaste of it and I can only recommend it.

P.S. I got the copy from the library and I was a bit surprised to see some anonymous ex libris under the front cover with a phoenix bird on it and some unknown to me family name.
And then this morning I read the chapter about the great library of squire Popielski that was "nationalized" and when poor Izydor got a book from there, he noticed that it had squire's ex libris with... phoenix and Popielski's name on it... exactly the one that was in my book. You know, just for a second I got totally speechless. First thought was "OMG, I got into squire's Popielski game!"
You, whoever had the idea (maybe the Author herself) - just know it was well played!
Profile Image for Jolanta (knygupe).
822 reviews180 followers
May 3, 2019
Magiškasis lenkų rašytojos romanas. Puikiai išverstas V. Jaručio.

Pirmasis sakinys, kuris negali neįtraukti...''Praamžiai - tai vieta pasaulio vidury''.

"-Eik ir nesustok jokiame kitame pasaulyje. Ir nepasiduok gundomas sugrižti."
Romanas apie laiką, kelią ir ne tik...

p.s. Sugrįžau prie šių pastabėlių po daugelio metų, bebaigiant skaityti Tokarczuk Bėgūnus. Tai va, jau tada, pasirodo, ji ragino ''bėgti"...😉
Profile Image for Nickolas the Kid.
306 reviews70 followers
October 27, 2020
Ενδιαφέρουσα μίξη ευ��ωπαϊκού μαγικού ρεαλισμού (sic), μυθοπλασίας και μυστικισμού. Η Όλγα Τόκαρτσουκ φτιάχνει ένα δικό της Μακόντο το οποίο είναι σκοτεινό, αποκομμένο από τον υπόλοιπο κόσμο και βιώνει τις ιστορικές αλλαγές της εποχής με έναν αρκετά ιδιόμορφο τρόπο.
Η συγγραφέας δίνει μεγάλη βάση στους συμβολισμούς και τις αλληγορίες υπερφορτώνοντας το κείμενο και κατά την προσωπική μου άποψη στερώντας από τους βασικούς χαρακτήρες το βάθος που χρειαζόντουσαν.
Το Αρχέγονο φυσικά είναι ο κόσμος της Τόκαρτσουκ και η ίδια τον πλάθει όπως ακριβώς θα ήθελε και όπως φυσικά μαρτυράει και το όνομα του. Σε αυτό το μέρος ο χρόνος είναι μια διαφορετική διάσταση, ο θάνατος έχει μια περίεργη μορφή και ο Θεός δεν είναι η βιβλική μορφή που όλοι μας λίγο πολύ γνωρίζουμε.
Αν και ξεκομμένο από τον υπόλοιπο κόσμο, το επηρεάζουν τα ιστορικά γεγονότα του 20ου αιώνα όπως ο ΑΠΠ και ο ΒΒΠ, στα οποία γίνονται συχνές αναφορές μιας και η Τόκαρτσουκ φαίνεται πως ενδιαφέρεται να συνδέσει με την πραγματικότητα τον μικρόκοσμό της. Άλλες φορές το καταφέρνει άλλες όχι όμως. Πάντως καταφέρνει να δείχνει αποστασιοποιημένη από τα περισσότερα ιστορικά γεγονότα αφήντας μάλλον στην κρίση του αναγνώστη για το τι είναι σωστό ή λάθος.
Η γραφή είναι κατά τη γνώμη μου αρκετά στρωτή, χωρίς λυρισμούς ή περιπλοκότητες κάτι που δίνει μια αμεσότητα στο έργο. Το βιβλίο φυσικά γίνεται πολλές φορές αιρετικό, βλάσφημο και ο μυστικισμός που το διακρίνει γίνεται όλο και πιο έντονος όσο η ιστορία πλησιάζει στο τέλος της, Δεν υπάρχει κάτι συνταρακτικό όμως στην όλη υπόθεση. Δεν υπάρχουν μεγάλες συγκινήσεις ή ανατροπές. Παρόλα αυτά λόγω της συγγραφικής της δεινότητας η συγγραφέας κατάφερε να μου κρατήσει το ενδιαφέρον αμείωτο μέχρι το τέλος.
Profile Image for Vaso.
1,135 reviews146 followers
September 19, 2022
Το Αρχέγονο είναι ένα χωριό, με τα δικά του σύνορα, που όμως παρόλο που είναι αόρατα, δεν οδηγούν πουθενά.
Παρακολουθούμε λοιπόν τις εξελίξεις στις ζωές των κατοίκων του, αρχικά από τον Πρώτο Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο κι έπειτα. Βλέπουμε τον ξεπεσμό των ευγενών και τη θέση που έχει ο Θεός, σε οποιαδήποτε έκφανσή του στη ζωή τους. Κυρίαρχο ρόλο θα έλεγα ότι έχουν οι γυναικείοι χαρακτήρες. Η Τοκάρτσουκ, χρησιμοποιώντας μαγικό ρεαλισμό και με ιδιαίτερη πρόζα, σε παρασέρνει σε ένα φανταστικό ταξίδι που δεν θες να τελειώσει.
Ένα βιβλίο ιδιαίτερο, διαφορετικό μα τόσο απίστευτα ωραίο.
Ξεκάθαρα δείχνει τη συγγραφική της δεινότητα και δικαίως θεωρώ ότι της άξιζε το Νόμπελ Λογοτεχνίας που της απονεμήθηκε.
Profile Image for Boris.
419 reviews157 followers
March 5, 2021
Докато четях “Правек и други времена” нямаше как да не обърна внимание на множеството прилики с Божествена комедия на Данте Алигиери. Олга Токарчук е написала една модерна алегория за структурата на света и човешките търсения, които я олицетворяват.

Европейската идентичност е била идеалната почва за такъв литературен експеримент през 14-ти век, Токарчук знае това и е изримувала всичко това в крак с времето, в което живеем. И звучи добре.

С нетърпение чакам останалите творби на тази интересна и много начетена писателка.
Profile Image for Cesare Cantelli.
42 reviews1,657 followers
July 8, 2022
Dopo uno stop di quasi un mese (mannaggia a Berserk che mi sta divorando) concludo codesto libricino yaaaa.
MEH: É uno spaccato di un centinaio d’anni su un paesino polacco moooolto piccolino. Lo stile narrativo m’irritava e della quasi totalità delle storie dei personaggi me ne fregava il giusto. Però lei é molto brava a scrivere e tutto scorreva liscio liscio.
Profile Image for Patrizia.
506 reviews139 followers
October 15, 2020
Prawiek è un luogo inventato, in cui il tempo scorre e si frammenta nei singoli tempi dei suoi abitanti, bosco, animali e piante compresi. Scorre per circa ottant’anni, mentre le guerre e i soldati spadroneggiano calpestando uomini e donne del villaggio, incarnando il male che solo l’uomo è capace di infliggere all’uomo. Prawiek è il centro di un mondo in cui anche Dio ha il suo tempo e l’eternità aspetta. Dio non ha vita facile nella mente dei personaggi (straordinari) che popolano il paese. È inafferrabile e mutevole, mentre gli uomini lo considerano immobile e immutabile e perciò non lo capiscono.
C’è il tempo del Gioco, che permette di conoscere otto mondi diversi, con e senza Dio, con e senza uomini.
C’è un luogo in cui la realtà si ripiega e sembra fuggire, per cui molti hanno l’impressione di non essersi mai allontanati dal paese, di averlo solo sognato.
Spesso anche gli oggetti sfuggono a una piena comprensione se non li si osserva a occhi chiusi:

“Le cose sono creature immerse in un’altra realtà priva di tempo e di movimento”.

Gli alberi hanno una vita inconsapevole, sognano e quando muoiono il loro sogno si trasferisce in un’altra pianta. Non avendo percezione della morte, l’hanno sconfitta.
C’è il tempo dei morti, quando le anime si staccano e si rendono conto di aver sprecato il tempo.

“Da morti scoprivano il segreto della vita, ma si trattava di una scoperta inutile”.

I confini del paese sono vaghi, da un lato si perdono nel bosco oscuro e minaccioso, regno dell’Uomo Cattivo, che ha dimenticato il proprio nome, la propria vita, gli affetti e ha pertanto perso l’umanità.
I personaggi sono diversi, ma non è un romanzo corale. È l’insieme di tempi frammentati, di storie che hanno il sapore di favole, ma anche di racconti che fanno paura. La scrittura scorre, come la storia, con l’impeto dei due fiumi che abbracciano il paese per poi confluire, pacificati e soddisfatti, in un terzo corso d’acqua.
È un romanzo poetico, avvolgente, seducente, difficile lasciarlo andare.
Profile Image for Eva Pliakou.
105 reviews156 followers
April 25, 2022
Αυτό το βιβλίο ήταν συγκλονιστικό. Τη λατρεύω την Τοκάρτσουκ, πώς γίνεται να γράφει έτσι.

«Οι άνθρωποι σκέφτονται πως ζουν πιο έντονα απὀ τα ζώα, από τα φυτά, και ακόµα περισσότερο απὀ τα αντικείμενα. Τα ζώα αισθάνονται πως ζουν πιο έντονα απὀ τα φυτά και τα αντικείμενα. Τα φυτά ονειρεύονται πως ζουν πιο έντονα από τα αντικείμενα. Αλλά τα αντικείµενα διαρκούν, και αυτή η διάρκεια σημαίνει περισσότερη ζωή απὀ οτιδήποτε ἀλλο.»
Profile Image for Angeliki  Floraki.
39 reviews6 followers
March 28, 2020
«Το Αρχέγονο βρίσκεται στο κέντρο του σύμπαντος». Μοιάζει να μην υπάρχει –ή να μην έχει σημασία– τίποτα πέρα από αυτό το μυθικό χωριό, τους απλούς μα συνάμα παράξενους κατοίκους του, το χώμα, το νερό και τον αέρα. Ένας μικρόκοσμος όπου μέχρι κι ένας κόκκος καφέ έχει σημασία.
Η Τόκαρτσουκ, χρησιμοποιώντας ως όπλο της τον μαγικό ρεαλισμό, ξετυλίγει την ιστορία των κατοίκων του Αρχέγονου, ξεκινώντας από την οπτική του καθενός ξεχωριστά, κι έπειτα μπλέκοντας τις ιστορίες τους και συνθέτοντας τις σχέσεις τους. Όλο αυτό το ονειρικό και αλληγορικό κλίμα παρασέρνει τον αναγνώστη, που χαλαρώνει και αφήνεται να ταξιδέψει σε μυστηριώδεις λαβυρίνθους κόσμων πλασμένων πολύ πριν από κείνον.
Και κάπου εκεί, έρχεται η γροθιά στο στομάχι. Ο πόλεμος φτάνει στο Αρχέγονο και μεμιάς ο ονειρικός κόσμος γκρεμίζεται. Η Τόκαρτσουκ περνάει από τον μαγικό ρεαλισμό στον ωμό ρεαλισμό, καταδεικνύοντας πώς η βιαιότητα του πολέμου απομαγεύει τη ζωή.
«Στην αρχή δεν υπήρχε Θεός. Δεν υπήρχε ούτε χρόνος, ούτε χώρος. Υπήρχε μόνο φως και σκοτάδι. Και ήταν τέλεια».
Profile Image for Tony.
906 reviews1,509 followers
March 3, 2011
This is not a history of countries and governments, nor of generals and presidents. Rather, it is stories of people, just people: Pawel, Misia, Ivan Mutka, Michal, Izydor, Cornspike. And is about time, or Times, the Times of these people; the generations and the moments. It is a story of a town, Primeval, something from long ago that sways in the winds of history. We see the larger, newspaper headlines subtly: a forest from which soldiers do not return (Katyn); a red and white flag fluttering (Solidarity). As these larger events happen, what happens to us: the miller, the housewife, the damaged? My ancestors splintered in such times. Some stayed hungry in their pride and their religion; some joined the Party, ostracized but fed; and some fled, spawning me. Olga Tokarczuk shows us the Times and the possibility of choices. What would you do?
Profile Image for Kate.
1,229 reviews2,212 followers
September 12, 2020

Olga does it again! Though I didn’t love this as much as “flights” or “drive your plow over the bones of the dead” I still REALLY liked this. It’s VERY existential and honestly gave me a bit of legitimate anxiety due to its intense discussions about death and how most people waste their lives on things that aren’t important. The writing was absolutely beautiful and each story was so profound and wonderful. I would say this reminds me of a fairy tale mixed with a new-religions sacred text - like this could be the Bible or Quran of a newly created religion. It was absolutely fascinating.
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