This morning, I finished reading Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, the translated name of Olga Tokarczuk’s 2009 novel, published a decade later in English.
I thought I’d share my five of the sections I highlighted, because it’s one of those books that, despite being a work of fiction, also has sections which describe well the human condition.
(I’ll also note that the book has made me more militantly vegetarian, which I didn’t see coming!)
It is at Dusk that the most interesting things occur, for that is when simple differences fade away. I could live in everlasting Dusk. (p.43)
When you walk past a shop window where large red chunks of butchered bodies are hanging on display, do you stop to wonder what it really is? You never think twice about it, do you? Or when you order a kebab or a chop – what are you actually getting? There’s nothing shocking about it. Crime has come to be regarded as a normal, everyday activity. Everyone commits it. That’s just how the world would look if concentration camps became the norm. Nobody would see anything wrong with them.’ (p.98)
For people of my age, the places that they truly loved and to which they once belonged are no longer there. The places of their childhood and youth have ceased to exist, the villages where they went on holiday, the parks with uncomfortable benches where their first loves blossomed, the cities, cafés and houses of their past. And if their outer form has been preserved, it’s all the more painful, like a shell with nothing inside it any more. I have nowhere to return to. It’s like a state of imprisonment. The walls of the cell are the horizon of what I can see. Beyond them exists a world that’s alien to me and doesn’t belong to me. (p.146)
The psyche is our defence system – it makes sure we’ll never understand what’s going on around us. Its main task is to filter information, even though the capabilities of our brains are enormous. For it would be impossible to carry the weight of this knowledge. Because every tiny particle of the world is made of suffering. (p.197)
Newspapers rely on keeping us in a constant state of anxiety, on diverting our emotions away from the things that really matter to us. Why should I yield to their power and let them tell me what to think? (p.235)