Author: Olga Tokarczuk
Translator: Jennifer Croft
Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions
Staff Pick! So Says…
Nearly 900 pages, numbered in reverse, counting down to the Messiah. This utterly magnificent novel abounds with things not usually found in contemporary European fiction: Kabbalistic significance, edible spells, interventionist angels, portentous co-incidences, erotic prayers and divine insight (where God is occasionally an oyster) – intertwined with violent anti-semitism, feudal brutality and a palpable sense of growing threat and historical dread.
Only Olga Tokarczuk could have written this visionary epic of the C18th Polish borderlands, a War and Peace where the war is within the human soul, and there’s no peace in its searching, driven, angry, bitterly satirical and melancholically beautiful account of the oppression of the various, mobile, canny, factional and very much alive Jewish communities of Poland, Moldova and the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires. Hats off as well to Jennifer Croft for superb handling of a dazzling array of voices – from pretentious bishops through crafty survivors to undead grandmas – that range through obscure Church vocabularies, vibrant vernaculars and mystical secrets.