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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead: An Extraordinary Moral Tale

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Born on January 29, 1962, in Sulechow, Poland, Olga Nawoja Tokarczuk is one of Poland’s most successful and beloved novelists. In 2018, she received the Man Booker International Prize for the English translation of “Flights.” For her “narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life,” she was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Olga is also an animal-people’s rights activist and a vegetarian. Olga Tokarczuk’s 2009 novel “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” is written as a detective story while addressing issues regarding the treatment of animal-people by humans. The heading of each chapter is a William Blake quotation, selected from his poems to emphasize the importance of being close to the natural world.

Explaining the message of her book, Olga Tokarczuk said: The deeper subject of this book, despite this criminal plot, hunting, and description of the Polish province, is morality. Olga writes in the first person, so the story is told through Janina’s point of view as she becomes involved in various criminal investigations. It asks the reader: What does it mean to be a human, or to be an animal-person, and what distinctions can be made between the two? Why is it a “sport” to take the lives of people from the deer kingdom yet “murder” to kill a human person? The book mentions that one can know a country by how it treats its animals.

In an interview with the Nobel Prize, Olga Tokarczuk spoke about how the issue of sustainability appears in her work. “And after this book, many people told me that they became vegetarian, so it’s really something.”

In 2017, “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” was made into the film “Spoor,” which won the Alfred Bauer Prize at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival. American novelist, journalist, and Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx described this novel as: “Tokarczuk’s novel is funny, vivid, dangerous, and disturbing, and it raises some fierce questions about human behavior.”
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