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Flights by Olga Tokarczuk

Flights (2007)

by Olga Tokarczuk

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256664,720 (3.63)9



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English (5)  German (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 5 of 5
"I stopped listening. The lecture was too long. They ought to dispense this education in smaller doses."

Bailing on this collection of intertwined stories and short essays. The essays are rather dull observations about traveling and other themes, and outweigh the few, interesting short stories. They may all be related in theme, but her takes on airports, traveling, and so on, were boring and sometimes rather snobbish. This would have been enjoyable if it was just collection of the short stories. ( )
  digitalmaven | Oct 14, 2018 |
This is a book that demands a lot of mental work and, at slightly more than 400 pages, a considerable time investment. While I don’t exactly regret reading it—which is something, I suppose, I was far less impressed with it than most, and the critics especially. I’d like to have more to show for my time than I do. This is a fragmented, chaotic, and even careless book roughly organized around the topics of travel and anatomy. As advertised, it is not a traditional or conventional novel—perhaps not a novel at all. It’s a collection of loosely connected stories (many of them inconclusive), anecdotes, facts, a lot pseudo facts (information that masquerades as having a foundation in reality), ruminations, and attempts at playfulness, cleverness—some of them self-conscious or self-referential. It seems that Tokarczuk did a fair bit of consulting of Wikipedia and who knows what other sources to create her book. (She marvels at the online, collaborative encyclopaedia more than once in Flights.) Whatever the case, a lot of the “information” Tokarczuk presents in her book is just flat-out wrong. Dark matter, for example, does not account for three-quarters of the universe. According to NASA, it makes up about 27%, while 68% of the universe is dark energy. Any basic anatomy or neurology text will tell you we do not, as Tokarczuk alleges, owe our short-term memory to the hippocampus. The hippocampus is actually involved in the storage of long-term memory. Atatürk, whose reforms came in the 1920s, was not responsible for the cruel removal of dogs from Constantinople/Istanbul to an island in the Bosporus where they would die of thirst and starvation. This came in the early 1900s, according to humanities and law professor Colin Dayan in his 2016 book Dogs at the Edge of Life (Columbia University Press).

Is Tokarczuk’s carelessness with facts in this book intentional—some sort of deliberate “post-modern” disregard for accuracy— or is it a result of translator or editorial carelessness? I don’t know, but I don’t see how it serves her “meditation on travel and anatomy”. After I encountered several such errors, I mistrusted the author. Why was I struggling to parse her sometimes tedious lectures on “travel psychology” and discussions of imaginary psychological syndromes that had no foundation in reality? The book increasingly became a sort of futile game I didn’t care to participate in. While I enjoyed a couple of the longer stories Tokarczuk included—for example, the story of a New Zealand biologist (whose work involves the extermination of invasive species) returning to her native Poland to facilitate the assisted suicide of a former lover, and another about a despairing Russian wife and mother, who rides the subway for days on end to escape her hopeless home life—for me, this book just didn’t come together. The idea that things in motion aren’t ultimately as subject to entropy as things at rest just seemed silly. A book that initially struck me as stimulating and clever soon lost its lustre. Flights turned out to be less than the sum of its parts and certainly overhyped. ( )
1 vote fountainoverflows | Sep 13, 2018 |
I read this so you don't have to. I'm no dummy but this kind of super cerebral European fiction is so not my cuppa. Here's my official thoughts though. https://bookpage.com/reviews/22957-olga-tokarczuk-flights#.W5AsPk2WwdU ( )
  laurenbufferd | Sep 5, 2018 |
This is an excellent Polish novel. It’s thoroughly modern and engaging. It reflects the mobility and transience of our contemporary life. The frame for it is travelling: airports, different places around the globe- unnamed yet recognizable and sometimes just nowhere in particular yet everywhere. The structure is fragmentary- short, few page long snippets, images, fragments of narration of accidental meetings of fellow travellers, their stories, stories of places. The structure reflects the fragmentary nature of our experience, boundless curiosity pushing us forward to explore, seeking what, immortality? Staying forever young? Better life? Or, is it just wanderlust? Difficult to tell. Also difficult to tell if it’s fiction or non-fiction. A bit of both, I guess. Something Byatt's Frederica would perhaps call 'laminations".

There is no good translation of the title. Bieguni can be translated as runners, or it can be translated as pilgrims. The title is borrowed from the name of an Orthodox Christian sect whose members tried to avoid evil by moving about and changing places. ( )
3 vote Niecierpek | Oct 14, 2010 |
Showing 5 of 5
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Olga Tokarczukprimary authorall editionscalculated
Croft, JenniferTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kinsky, EstherTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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