Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (Books 2019, 1)

The Flights novel alongside a small set of stone-carved elephants
The novel Flights with some elephants

I’m pleased to have finished the first book of the year — and the first of my Christmas books — already. It’s a book about travel, and the human body, and some people and things that happen to them. Is it a novel? It consists of a series of short sections, and a few longer ones. I can’t really call them chapters: some are no more than a paragraph, even a sentence. It does have characters, though: notably the narrator, who is the voice of most of the shorter sections. She appears to be someone who spends most of her life travelling around the world without necessarily any destination or purpose in mind.

That doesn’t make it sound as compelling as it is. There are connections between at least some of the stories, which make me think there must be more connections that I missed. A lot of it regards the preservation of dead bodies, from early embalming techniques to the “Body Worlds” plastination of Gunther von Hagens.

In the end it doesn’t quite form a unified whole, so in that sense I’m not sure we can really call it a novel. But it’s strangely compelling, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (Books 2019, 1)

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