I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Get Down from There

Alice Lyons
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Fitzcarraldo Editions, 272 pp, £12.99, ISBN: 978-1910695715 Olga Tokarczuk is a protean Central European writer whose oeuvre defies easy categorisation. Her works range from poetry, plays, mythic narratives (from primeval and other times), historical fiction (Book of Jacob, due out in English translation next year), and loosely bound fragments of narrative, history and arcane knowledge (House of Day, House of Night). Her novel Flights, also in this latter mode, won the 2018 Man Booker International Award. In her native Poland she has the enviable position of being an author of books seriously engaged with ideas, politics and history who enjoys a wide readership, now steadily and deservedly growing internationally. First published in Poland in 2009 and just out from Fitzcarraldo Editions in an English translation by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is Tokarczuk’s fourth novel. The heroine of the book, Janina Duszejko, is an outraged woman living deep in the forests of southeastern Poland. Her ire derives from the frequent sprees of killing wild animals in the mountain landscape that surrounds her home. Whether it is the hordes of hunters in camouflage who follow elaborate rituals to gun down game, or her bachelor-poacher neighbour who sets out snares with a bit of wire and “treats the forest as if it were his personal farm”, to Duszejko it’s all cold-blooded murder – indiscriminate, rampant – and she cannot bear it. Duszejko is an unconventional woman in her sixties, a former bridge engineer from the city of Wrocław, who has moved to a mountainous region near the Czech border and is one of three year-round residents of a small village. She is plagued by physical and psychic Ailments (yes with a capital A – more on that in a bit): her eyes permanently stream with tears; her body is riddled with unexplained pains deriving, in part, from her inability to block the fury she feels at the animals’ slaughter. Yet even though she is burdened by these physical limits, Janina Duszejko is not sitting on her hands; however, enumerating how would be too much of a spoiler. Suffice it to say she is an activist. 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…



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