First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
“Incomparably original, Flights interweaves reflections on travel with an exploration of the human body, broaching life, death, motion, and migration. Chopin’s heart is carried back to Warsaw in secret by his adoring sister. A woman must return to her native Poland in order to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart. A young man slowly descends into madness when his wife and child mysteriously vanish during a vacation and just as suddenly reappear. Through these brilliantly imagined characters and stories, interwoven with haunting, playful and revelatory meditations, Flights explores what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion not only through space but through time. Where are you coming from? Where are you going? we call to the traveler. Enchanting, unsettling, and wholly original, Flights is a master storyteller’s answer.
And it’s the first Friday of the eleventh month of the year! Happy Friday everyone! We are all excited about the weekend. I know I am especially after another tedious week at work. I have survived yet another month-end closing. Things will start to escalate as the year-end approaches. Huh. Such is the life of an accountant. On another note, with the year drawing to a close, I hope that everything you prayed for gets answered and that you reap the benefits of everything you have worked for this year. I hope that you get repaid for all the kindness you have showered the world. More importantly, I pray you are all doing well in this time of uncertainty. I fervently hope that the pandemic will end soon.
With Friday comes a First Impression Friday update. With the year drawing to a close, it has become imperative for me to prioritize completing my reading list, of which I have about four or five active challenges. My priority, however, is my 2021 Top 21 Reading list, of which Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights is a part. Unlike the previous years, I have been lagging behind on this annual endeavor; I still have eight books to complete before the year ends. I guess trying to read all the Booker Prize-nominated books also pushed me back on these challenges. Nevertheless, with the announcement of the winner, it is time to go back to the drawing board.
It was in 2019 that I first heard of Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk. She was one of the frontrunners for the 2018/2019 Nobel Prize in Literature award. She went on to be named the winner of the 2018 edition, and just the 14th woman to be a Laureate in Literature. It was for this that I hunted bookstores for her works. Luckily, I managed to find two of her works, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead and Flights. If my memory serves me right, these two books were among my last two purchases before the start of the lockdown restrictions in the Philippine capital. The former gave me my first insight into Tokarczuk’s prose. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. And it seems that Flights is headed in the same direction.
Originally published in Polish in 2007, its English translation would be published exactly a decade later. A year later, in 2018, Flights won the Man Booker International Prize. What stood out from the onset was the novel’s eccentric structure. Rather than a solid plotline or formulaic storytelling, Tokarczuk is blowing my mind yet again. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead’s occult and astrology are nothing compared to what Flights had in store. I am nearly halfway done but I am struggling to connect the dots. Or maybe I am seeing the story from a different point of view? This is an entirely new world.
Nevertheless, I am finding myself immersed in the vignettes that the Nobel Laureate conjured. The novel’s primary focus, as advertised, is on travel and it is indeed brimming with ruminations on travel. I liked how Tokarczuk is connecting the small details of our lives to grander narratives. One example that has caught my attention was the one on guidebooks: “Description is akin to overuse – it destroys, the colors wear off, the corners lose their definition, and in the end what’s been described begins to fade.” There was also a discussion of Paris Syndrome that Japanese tourists experience. There were also digressions on islands, airports, and on Wikipedia.
The novel also jumps in and out of different timelines and, in the process, it introduces different historical figures, some many of us are unfamiliar with. An example is Philip Verheyen, a renowned Dutch anatomist who was credited for discovering the Achilles Heel. This is just one of many examples of digressions. The novel, after all, is not what one could call conventional. With this, it is quite a challenge drawing a conclusion on how the story will end except that, along the way, its various strands will eventually overlap and a eureka moment will seize me.
I admire how writers often challenge the norms and push the limits of storytelling. For now, I want to relish what Flights has in store despite my struggles. I feel like there is something deeper obscured by the fragments of the story. I will sift through it this weekend. My hands are tied! HAHA. How about you fellow reader? What book are you reading? How are you enjoying it so far? I hope you can share it in the comment box. For now, I hope you all have a great weekend. And as always, happy reading!