“Primeval and Other Times”

Olga Tokarczuk’s “Primeval and Other Times” is simply stunning; a plethora of literary squares woven together to make a quilt that lays bare what it means to be human. Unvarnished, all of life is here: the tragic, the mystical, the sad, the violent, the superstitious, the unavoidable. And – ultimately – the powerlessness.

It seems a depiction of hopeless existentialism; a world where Life – not Man, nor God – seems to hold all the aces. There is an inevitability haunting Tokarczuk’s characters, and even when they try to escape physically or mentally – away from Primeval into a monastery, a forest, or the labyrinth of a mystical game – they can only be disappointed. Thwarted at almost every turn, in the end it is perhaps not Life but Death which is the master card player…

Not a book for anyone looking for uplifting optimism, I finished the emotionally wrenching ending wishing I had discovered her sooner – and already looking forward to the next book.