William2's Reviews > Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
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really liked it
bookshelves: 21-ce, crime, fiction, poland, translation

If you’re fond of animals, 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 reader.

Our storyteller is an elderly woman who, living alone in a rural area of Poland between Wrocław 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, 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 Plateau year 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 despairs.

Soon 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’s much in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead that this summary doesn’t touch on. This is the work of an extraordinarily talented writer, relatively new to English speakers, whom I look forward to reading more of. Hypnotic stuff.
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Reading Progress

September 1, 2019 – Started Reading
September 1, 2019 – Shelved
September 1, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
September 1, 2019 – Shelved as: 21-ce
September 1, 2019 – Shelved as: poland
September 1, 2019 – Shelved as: translation
September 1, 2019 – Shelved as: fiction
September 1, 2019 – Shelved as: crime
September 3, 2019 –
page 123
44.89%
September 4, 2019 –
page 199
72.63%
September 7, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Malka (new) - added it

Malka Frank Good review. Made me want to read it. Thanks W


William2 You’re welcome


message 3: by Jaidee (new)

Jaidee I could really feel your admiration William :)


message 5: by Deborah (new) - added it

Deborah Excellent review...inspired me to start reading it...it is mesmerizing


William2 Glad you’re enjoying it, Deborah.


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