Olga Tokarczuk, Primeval and Other Times (1992; trans. Twisted Spoon Press, 2010)

Ordered this book Thursday, book arrived Friday, read first page Saturday morning, turned the last page Saturday night, couldn’t put it down. By Polish Nobel Prize-winner Olga Tokarczuk, Primeval and Other Times is one of those stories that spans decades of historical violence so obscene, so impossible to imagine, that only by making room for the impossible can any reader begin to understand the truth behind the facts. These are my favorite kinds of stories. I’m thinking of Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum, Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles, Franz Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony” or Guillermo del Toro’s film, Pan’s Labyrinth—stories that (out of necessity) unfold like fairy tales. In the village of Primeval, angels exist, ghosts too, doorways to worlds beyond worlds, wild beast-men, and gods confused by their own, handmade chaos. But strangely enough, these ephemeral details only serve to distill into a crystalline realism the love and loss that revolve endlessly around the primeval center of human experience, the heart.