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Posts for April 1, 2020

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk, Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Books 2020, 4)

I like this quote from near the end:

The fact that we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future is a terrible mistake in the programming of the world. It should be fixed at the first opportunity.

When I read Tokarczuk’s Flights at the start of last year, it was actually this one that had led me to her. Warren Ellis recommended it in his newsletter, if I remember correctly, and the title intrigued me. What I didn’t realise then was that the title is a quote from William Blake: “Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead,” he says, in Proverbs of Hell. With that spelling, I note.

Apparently it caused a great fuss when it was published in Poland. I don’t understand why, but cultures are different.

Unlike Flights, it’s a complete, single story. It’s also much simpler. The narrator is an interesting character, though her practice of astrology adds nothing to the story and gets in its way to an extent.

Each chapter has a quote from Blake as an epigraph. I don’t think she used the thirteenth proverb of hell, though it could be seen as the narrator’s north star:

All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap.

The Big Short, 2015 - ★★½

You might come out of this film with a better understanding of the events that led to the 2008 financial crisis — or you might not. More likely, I think, you’ll sort-of understand it while you’re watching, but be none the wiser when it’s all over.

The question of what happened is explained, but not the one of how it was allowed to happen.

But I think the problem with this as a movie is that it tries to dramatise the events, using versions of some of the real people involved as characters; but it doesn’t go far enough in that. We don’t see anything of their lives outside of their financial dealings, so it fails to humanise them sufficiently. As characters, I ended up just finding them tiresome.

To really help us to understand the whole thing, it would need to be a documentary, and that would have been harder to sell. So by not quite being enough of one thing or the other, it fails at both.





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