The English translation of the prize-winning international bestsellerWinner of the Gunter Grass PrizeNowa Ruda is a small town in Silesia, an area that has been a part of Poland, Germany, and the former Czechoslovakia in the past. When the narrator moves into the area, she and discovers everyone-and everything-has its own story. With the help of Marta, her enigmatic neighbor, the narrator accumulates these stories, tracing the history of Nowa Ruda from the founding of the town to the lives of its saints, from the caller who wins the radio quiz every day to the tale of the man who causes international tension when he dies on the border, one leg on the Polish side, the other on the Czech side. Each of the stories represents a brick and they interlock to reveal the immense monument that is the town. What emerges is the message that the history of any place--no matter how humble--is limitless, that by describing or digging at the roots of a life, a house, or a neighborhood, one can see all the connections, not only with one's self and one's dreams but also with all of the universe.Richly imagined, weaving in anecdote with recipes and gossip, Tokarczuk's novel is an epic of a small place. Since its original publication in 1998 it has remained a bestseller in Poland. House of Day, House of Night is the English-language debut of one of Europe's best young writers.
About the Author
Olga Tokarczuk was born in 1962. She studied psychology at the University of Warsaw and debuted with the poetry volume Cities in Mirrors. She is also the author of a prize-winning play, four novels and two books of short stories, and has received two Nike Reader's Prizes and the Berlin Bridge Literary Prize. She currently runs the RUTA publishing house and lives in the countryside near Nowa Ruda in southwestern Poland.Antonia Lloyd-Jones has trnaslated several works including Jaroslaw Lwaszkiewicz's The Birch Grove and Other Stories and Pawel Huelle's Moving House and Who Was David Weiser?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
House of Day, House of Night (Writings from an Unbound Europe) based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
2:34 PMOlga Tokarczuk's House of Day, House of Night is a dreamlike journey through the seasons in a Polish village near the German border. In turn, the narrator and her elderly neighbor Marta shell peas, hunt mushrooms and pick chamomile. Their conversations ground the narrator who otherwise watches village life from the edges of fields and forest and fends off strange intrusions from the present. In a series of vignettes, the reader is introduced to the inhabitants of a village seemingly frozen in time. A woodcutter makes the narrator uneasy, pedestrian infidelities leave the narrator bored and a schoolmaster turned werewolf disappointingly ends up as a farmhand. Intertwined is a recounting of ancient tales that swell up from the land, undeterred from the shifting borders and changing place names of the present. The lives of Kummernis and the saintly Brother Paschalis contrast in their solemnity with the narrator's fanciful conversations about the animals god forgot to create. A highly recommended lyric break from the tyranny of plot and characterization.
I loved House of Day, House of Night by Olga Tokarczuk (beautifully translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones). Reading it was like sipping brandy -- heady, dreamy, and deserving of slow savoring. The narrator, a contemporary young woman, is a new resident of the old village of Nowa Ruda (formerly Neurude) in the Silesian region of Poland. Over a period of a spring, summer and autumn, with the companionship of her neighbor, Marta, an ancient wigmaker with a deep connection to the natural world, she slowly unfolds the stories of the villagers, their history and their interconnectedness. It's a gorgeous meditation on nature and humanity that rather defies description -- as much poetry as fiction.This is the first paragraph:"The first night I had a dream. I dreamed I was pure sight, without a body or a name. I was suspended high above a valley at some undefined point from which I could see everything. I could move around my field of vision, yet remain in the same place. It seemed as if the world below was yielding to me as I look at it, constantly moving toward me, and then away so first I could see everything, then only tiny details.".
I so much wanted to like this book. It is from my part of the world. It is a best-seller in Poland and comes highly recommended as a delight, comic, tragic and wise. And yet¿It offers a kaleidoscopic view of life in a small Silesian village, intended no doubt as a microcosm of the world. Everyone and everything has a story. History is limitless and universal. The plot weaves over a large timescape. And that in fact is the problem. Some of the life-stories I found engaging. One of the opening ones is that of Marek Marek who in early childhood feels great pain and learns to cry without tears. Later, discovering alcohol, he finds that with its help everything inside, including all the pain, stops suddenly. He becomes convinced that he has a bird inside him, which increases his pain. So he has to drink. Eventually he attempts suicide, and finally succeeds. This episode with its elements of dark humour is affecting. Many others, though, are not. Neither the narrator, nor Marta, the other key figure, are particularly interesting, and neither are their stories. An incredibly long section dealing with Saint Kummernis, also known as Wilgefortis, is an excruciating piece of hagiography related very tangentially to plot or theme. The fabulous Agni episode thrusts the book squarely into the territory of magic realism, without any originality. We build to a final crescendo with ¿For some reason people have developed a liking for only one sort of transformation. They are fond of increase and development, but not decrease and disintegration. They prefer ripening to decay¿.People like what¿s new and has never existed before. The new! The new!¿ The final image is of a man hoping to put all the pictures of the sky together like a jigsaw puzzle. In the end the book succeeds neither on a storytelling level, nor a thematic one.Additionally, I had issues with some translation decisions. Most characters and places have, of course, Polish names. But we also have a character named Whatsisname and the Frost family. For the Polish speaker it is obviously significant that the name of the town, revealed at the beginning, is Nowa Ruda, meaning New Clearing. The non-speaker only finds out the name¿s significance in the final pages.A most disappointing book.