In Antonia Lloyd-Jones’s translation, the prose is by turns witty and melancholy, and never slips out of that distinctive narrative voice. It also contains perhaps the most bravura translation performance I have ever seen, when Janina and her companion repeatedly attempt to translate a passage of Blake: several versions of a particular verse are rendered in English, which has been translated from the Polish, which in turn has been translated from English. It is difficult to imagine a more tricky task for a translator, or one undertaken with more skill.
fiercely intelligent thriller... Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, which was first published in Poland in 2009, starts with the discovery of a corpse, and it isn’t long before another turns up, but the whodunnit plot is used to investigate other kinds of connection and causation – “inquiry” in the broadest sense. The result, amusing, stimulating and intriguing, if at times a little dense, might be likened to Fargo as rewritten by Thomas Mann, or a WG Sebald version of The Mousetrap.
Tokarczuk’s novels, poems and short stories consistently open up unpredictable wonders and astonishments, and there isn’t a genre that she can’t subvert... Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is not as ambitious as The Books of Jacob, or as soaringly inventive as Flights. It will, however, make you want to read everything that Tokarczuk has written, and you’ll want to return to the Klodzko Valley with its harsh winters and fierce skies, as soon as possible.
Translated with virtuosic precision and wit by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Tokarczuk’s prescient, provocative and furiously comic fiction seethes with a Blakean conviction of the cleansing power of rage: the vengeance of the weak when justice is denied. “What a good thing death can be,” Mrs Duszejko reflects, contemplating Big Foot’s limp body, once so cruel and destructive, now harmless. “How just and fair, like a disinfectant or a vacuum cleaner.” Her aperçu, with its invigorating combination of the mystical, the vengeful and the domestic, perfectly encapsulates the essence of this elegantly subversive novel.
Ms Tokarczuk’s forthright support for feminism, ecological causes and minority rights has attracted the wrath of Polish conservatives. Her fiction, however, eschews overt advocacy...Ms Tokarczuk has a ball of her own. Sardonic humour and gothic plot-twists add a layer of macabre rustic comedy. Antonia Lloyd-Jones, an outstanding Polish-English translator, sculpts Janina’s English voice (complete with Blakean capitalisations) with panache.
Like her heroine, who sees everything as connected to everything else and every event bound up by a “complex cosmos of correspondences”, Tokarczuk has a compelling capacity to seek out parallels or juxtapose stories or experiences that constantly draw the reader off trail. On many occasions, the disorientation is a kind of laughter in the dark... Tokarczuk has every reason too to be grateful for the linguistic friendship of another translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones who has once again done a remarkable job of capturing the uncanny distinction of Tokarczuk’s prose in English. There is much to admire in this book and even more to learn.