Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead

Olga Tokarczuk, winner of the 2018 Booker International Prize for Flights, exhibits more of her trademark strangeness in her newly translated novel, Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead. First published in Poland in 2009, Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is a literary murder mystery that draws heavily on the cosmology and style of William Blake. The narrator, Mrs. Duszejko, has been written off by most of the residents in her remote Polish village as an "old madwoman." She is earnest, brilliant and utterly bizarre. She calls everyone by strange names, she calculates the horoscope of each person she meets, she spends her days translating Blake and, perhaps most peculiarly, she insists to all of her neighbors that animals have souls. When the bodies of several prominent local hunters turn up, residents are suddenly forced to contend with Mrs. Duszejko's theorizing.

Tokarczuk writes about the world with clarity and wisdom, and she is not afraid to make the world strange for her readers. Her writing allows them to slip seamlessly into the mind of Duszejko, mentally unstable woman turned existential detective, which turns out to be a surprisingly sensible place. Heartwarming and deeply disturbing, Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is a novel that instills in readers a desire to reorient their relationship to the animal world and perhaps to move into the woods. A rebel and a luminary, Tokarczuk belongs alongside Gombrowicz, Schulz and Szymborska as one of the finest writers in the Polish tradition. --Emma Levy, publishing assistant, Shelf Awareness

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