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Preview — Flights by Olga Tokarczuk
They weren’t real travellers: they left in order to return. And they were relieved when they got back, with a sense of having fulfilled an obligation. They returned to collect the letters and bills that stacked up on the chest of drawers. To do a big wash. To bore their friends to death by showing pictures as everyone attempted to conceal their yawns. This is us in Carcassonne. Here’s my wife with the Acropolis in the background.
In debates, I’d be on one side one time and the other the next – which I know never endeared me to my interlocutors. I was witness to a strange phenomenon that occurred in my mind: the more I would find arguments for something, the more arguments against it would occur to me, too, and the more I grew attached to those arguments in favour, the more alluring the opposition became.
Another man – gentle, shy – always took a book of Cioran with him when he travelled for work, one of the ones made up of very short texts. At hotels, he’d keep it on his bedside table, and every morning on waking he would open it at random and find his guiding principle for the day to come.
He pulls out a map of the islands and considers the options. She might have got disoriented and simply rejoined the road in a different spot. She was probably just standing somewhere else now. Maybe she would even flag down a car and go – where? According to the map, the road drew a winding line across the whole of the island, so that you could travel all the way around without ever getting down to the sea. Which was how they had gone to the town of Vis a few days earlier.
In the end, hands will come up, first testing their own strength on the air, in gestures to illustrate their words, and then they will roam to companions’ arms, to their backs and shoulders, patting and encouraging them. These will in fact be gestures of love. This fraternizing by way of hands and backs is not intrusive; it’s a kind of dance.
Once we’re on the bus, she sets out her theory of time. She says that sedentary peoples, farmers, prefer the pleasures of circular time, in which every object and event must return to its own beginning, curl back up into an embryo and repeat the process of maturation and death. But nomads and merchants, as they set off on journeys, had to think up a different type of time for themselves, one that would better respond to the needs of their travels. That time is linear time, more practical because it was able to measure progress toward a goal or destination, rises in percentages. Every moment is ...more
It is as if the cosmetics industry sees the phenomenon of travel as mirroring sedentary life, but in miniature, a cute little baby version of the same.
I love the of idea of reading books as a brotherly, sisterly moral obligation to one’s people.
Eryk would immerse himself in reading, becoming a bookmark, being happy.
The other state of mind strengthened his conviction that actually he was better, unique, exceptional. That he was the only one who sensed and understood the truth, that only he was capable of being exceptional.
The word ‘lethologica’ describes the state of being unable to recall the word you’re looking for.
There are countries out there where people speak English. But not like us – we have our own languages hidden in our carry-on luggage, in our cosmetics bags, only ever using English when we travel, and then only in foreign countries, to foreign people. It’s hard to imagine, but English is their real language! Oftentimes their only language. They don’t have anything to fall back on or to turn to in moments of doubt.
‘At first you always see what’s alive and vibrant. You’re delighted by nature, by the local church painted in different colours, by the smells and all that. But the longer you’re in a place, the more the charm of those things fades. You wonder who lived here before you came to this home and this room, whose things these are, who scratched the wall above the bed and what tree the sills were cut from. Whose hands built the elaborately decorated fireplace, paved the courtyard? And where are they now? In what form? Whose idea led to these paths around the pond and who had the idea of planting a ...more