Usually I try to post a blog near the beginning of the month with a look at what I’m reading or planning to read over the month. It’s been an unusual month, however, in that post-Christmas and winding up space, with plenty of projects on the go and marking to be done. So here we are, Burns Night (or St Dwynwyn’s Day, as some of the Welsh luvvies have it… plus Chinese New Year, so gung hay fat choy for your Year of the Rat), and I just finished Olga Tokarczuk’s remarkable book Flights, so I thought I’d briefly write about it here.
Savvy readers (there must be one or two of you out there) will recall that I put this on my to-read list for October, conveniently timed after her Nobel Prize win. We happened to be going to the bookshop anyway so the kids could spend their Granny-gifted book tokens, and there it was. The news so fresh, it didn’t yet have a sticker which the clever Fitzcarraldo people have since added to it – a transparent sticker identifying her Nobel win. It’s a shame, because the gorgeous simplicity of the cover is what drove me to Tokarczuk in the first place, when I spotted Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead last year. This edition did have a sticker on it helpfully telling me it won the Man Booker International Prize for 2018, but I pulled it off and stuck it on an inside page. Why let the prizes that support book sales get in the way of aesthetics?
I did not, however, get to it then. Instead, it’s been my bedside table companion through most of January. And it’s been productive – the general motif of flight and human motion helped me with some other writing I’ve been doing this week, whilst the final narrative we get in the book has me kicking myself for not becoming an expert on ancient Greece instead of contemporary media engagement with Muslims… I doubt anyone will invite me to give lectures on an island-hopping cruise through the Dodecanese when I’m retired, and all I can do now is feel bad about my decisions. Continue reading