Tokarczuk's third novel, Primeval and Other Times was awarded the Koscielski Foundation Prize in 1997, which established the author as one of the leading voices in Polish letters. It is set in the mythical Polish village of Primeval, which is populated by eccentric, archetypal characters. The village, a microcosm of Europe and the world, is guarded by four archangels, from whose perspective the novel chronicles the lives of Primeval's inhabitants over the course of the feral 20th century. In prose that is forceful and direct, the narrative follows Poland's tortured political history from 1914 to the contemporary era and the episodic brutality that is visited on ordinary village life. Yet Primeval and Other Times is a novel of universal dimension that does not dwell on the parochial. A stylized fable as well as epic allegory about the inexorable grind of time, the clash between modernity (the masculine) and nature (the feminine), it has been translated into most European languages.
Tokarczuk has said of the novel: "I always wanted to write a book such as this. One that creates and describes a world. It is the story of a world that, like all things living, is born, develops, and then dies." Kitchens, bedrooms, childhood memories, dreams and insomnia, reminiscences, and amnesia — these are part of the existential and acoustic spaces from which the voices of Tokarczuk's tale come, her "boxes in boxes."
Great literature still exists
This book combines emotion, imagination and thought about life and death, the nature of being, forces seen and unseen. Yet it never fails to keep characters real and vital. They are deep and wild. Worth savoring.