Monday, May 28, 2018

It is impossible to grasp everything at once

People think they live more intensely than animals, than plants, and especially than things. Animals sense that they live more intensely than plants and things. Plants dream that they live more intensely than things. But things last, and this lasting is more alive than anything else.
People come and go. We live, we die. We're all the same, interchangeable. The things, they live without us, take on a life of their own. (How intensely do you live?)

Primeval and Other Times, by Olga Tokarczuk, is absolutely exquisite in evoking someplace mythical, an irrelevant backwater locked in time and space that finally transcends its limitations. Primeval is the centre of the universe. There is no before or after.

The book starts and ends with a coffee-grinder. We don't know exactly where it came from (somewhere in the east) and we don't know what lies ahead (the world is opening to the west), but it's passed through three generations of one family in Primeval. Life is a grind, life grinds you down, and it just keeps grinding. Things last.
If you take a close look at an object, with your eyes closed to avoid being deceived by the appearances that things exude around themselves, if you allow yourself to be mistrustful, you can see their true faces, at least for a moment.
According to Ruta, the world outside of Primeval doesn't exist. Does she truly believe this? (One day she tries to leave.) Or is it just a story she tells gullible Izydor?
He stepped back a few paces and started running towards the spot where, according to Ruta, the boundary ran. Then he suddenly stopped. He himself did not know why. Something here wasn't right. He stretched his hands out ahead of him, and his fingertips disappeared.

Izydor felt himself split into two different boys. One of them was standing with his hands held out ahead, and they clearly lacked any fingertips. The other boy was next to him, and couldn't see the first boy, or moreover his lack of fingers. Izydor was both boys at once.
Later, Ruta once again leads Izydor into the forest:
And now he realised where his sense of lack was coming from, the sorrow that underlay everything, the sorrow that was present in every single thing, in every phenomenon, and always had been — it is impossible to grasp everything at once.
There's a thing about God being present in process, transformation, change. Maybe he does not exist here, in Primeval, where nothing changes. But things change.

This book made me tear up, more than once. Not because of the story events per se, but for how it made me reflect on my own life, the people who come and go, what we do and don't have control over. How we live. Things that are so small and so big at the same time. Every book has its time and its place, and I'm living in a primeval state just now; this is the book I needed. I love this book.

Words without Borders


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