It is always uplifting to learn about the work of a Nobel Prize winner for literature. Know about his territorial environment, his culture, his motivations for writing and everything related to his work. Read Olga Tokarczuk, Polish writer (1962) International Booker Prize, among others, mainly the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature; backed by more than fifteen novels, essays and stories, which she has written about the history of Poland and Ukraine starting from the complexity of the world and the human environment, it is not without inspiration.
The novel A PLACE CALLED YESTERDAY, is located in a place invented by the author, just like Gabriel Garcia Marquez invented his Macondo Y Juan Rulfo its Comala to surround his emblematic novels. The similarity between the three writers is that all three resort to magical realism, although with different results. To this novel: I know I could define him as a cross between One Hundred Years of Solitude and a painting by Chagall, for its surrealist style and its expressionism, or as if it were an infinite puzzle. Everything that is narrated there, takes place during a century.
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Yesteryear, a town in the heart of Poland, contains stories delivered in short chapters through which they parade: two wars, births, love affairs, violence, dignity, betrayals, deaths. His characters reveal their passions and fears, all vulnerable and lively. In the past it is in the center of the universe, guarded by four archangels: Rafael, Gabriel, Miguel and Uriel.
In the summer of the fourteenth Genowefa and Michal appear, he is taken to war by Russian agents. She cried all day and all night, looking at her recent pregnancy with uncertainty. She coincides with another woman in the same conditions with whom she comments: Yes if we agreed to have only girls, there would be peace in the world. Genowefa’s wish came true, she had a girl whom she named Misia. Standing in line to get groceries, he meets a homeless woman they call Espiga, because she feeds on ears of corn that she picks from the field. She was corpulent and beautiful; With no other future, she threw herself into a bad life. Men always walked like dogs around her. She enjoyed her precarious life. Espiga got pregnant, she didn’t know from whom; he aroused the compassion of the wife of the town’s master, owner of land and forests. The girl did not accept the conditional help to work for her protector, so she took refuge in a ruined house, where she brought her stillborn son into the world.
In the community there was a priest of impulsive and irascible nature. He hated the Negro River that crossed the city, as it flooded his flower meadows when it swelled from the summer rains. From the pulpit, the priest compares the excesses of the river with the work of the devil. He retaliates by whipping the undulating body of the Negro River. He runs away from Espiga every time he sees her. Florentynka is a woman who went crazy in a “normal” way, after her husband drunkenly drowned in the river; she died seven of the nine children she had, her stable burned down and her two surviving children fled and were lost in the world. Her house is filled with cats and dogs. One night she begins to insult the moon blaming her for her misfortunes. The only one who comforts her is Espiga. Genowefa and Espiga give birth on the same day in her second pregnancy. The first of hers had a difficult delivery assisted by a midwife who slapped her to bring her to consciousness from her continuous fainting spells. Instead, Espiga gave birth, alone, in a corner of her shack, on a bundle of hay. She had a big and beautiful baby. Genowefa heard the midwife say: You have a girl. She knew as soon as she saw the surly, crying child, “This is not our son. The midwife told me that she had a girl. The husband, busy looking for a wet nurse to feed the baby, tried to convince his wife that the child was theirs. Espiga gave birth at the same time; maybe she convinced the midwife to change the babies… The boy began to grow little, in contrast, his head was enlarged. The doctor ruled: could be hydrocephalus… Genowefa ended up loving the boy who grew up along with his playmate, Espiga’s daughter, whom he called Ruta, whom the little man would come to love for life.
There are many characters that appear in this surprising and dazzling work: invading Cossacks, lost souls who believe they are alive, talking animals. Even God himself who lets himself be seen as bored with the humanity he created… So God came down to earth and forcibly turned animals into people. But the animals did not want to be transformed into men; They seemed to them horrible and frightening beings, true monsters.
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There is a great distance between Latin American magic realism and the Polish one adopted by Olga Tokarczuk, recognized as one of the best and most celebrated contemporary Polish writers. However, we are left with the idea that human beings, absurd or not, we all cover ourselves with the same shell: moved by passions, dreams, doubts, fears, desires. The writer or writer who manages to capture in her work, the depth of the soul, without limits of borders, earn the merit of being recognized and obtain millions of readers.
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a place called yesteryear