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Primeval and Other Times Paperback – 1 Jan 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Twisted Spoon Press (1 Jan. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8086264351
  • ISBN-13: 978-8086264356
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 264,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

[The novel] recounts the hard passage of an imaginary village through a century of conflict, distant coups and decay ... Overlooking all is a vain selfish God who has become thoroughly bored with mankind and who must play second fiddle in Ms Tokarczuk's pantheistic world to material things... --The Economist

From odds and ends of real history Tokarczuk builds a myth, i.e., a history with a rigid order, where all the events, including the bad and tragic ones, have their reasons for happening. She organizes space according to the model of the mandala -- a circle drawn inside a square, which is the geometrical image of perfection and completion. --Gazeta Wyborcza

In this epic novel Olga Tokarczuk has drawn on the tradition of magic realism to create a world permeated with ancient myths as much as it is firmly rooted in the present. --Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

The author draws the reader into a sadistic world that is described in a language that is crystalline and pure as water from a well. --De Morgen

Olga Tokarczuk's myth of "Primeval" is far from simplistic. She is not satisfied with merely glossing traditional mythical narratives, and we will not find many of these in her novel. Her method is more sophisticated. Perhaps we would do well to recall that wonderful Polish tradition of "mythmaking," as in the works of Bruno Schulz and Boleslaw Lesmian, where the mythical perception of the world takes precedence over simply presenting the memes of myth, as it were, which are meant to point to readymade archetypes.
--Lidove noviny (Prague)

About the Author

Olga Tokarczuk was born in 1962 in Sulechów near Zielona Góra, Poland. A recipient of all of Poland's top literary awards, she is one of the most critically acclaimed authors of her generation. After finishing her psychology degree at the University of Warsaw, she initially practiced as a therapist and often cites C.G. Jung as an inspiration for her work, in which mythmaking has become a hallmark.

Since the publication of her first book in 1989, a collection of poems, Tokarczuk has published nine volumes of stories, novellas, and novels, and one book-length essay (on Boleslaw Prus's novel The Doll). In English her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, as has her novel House of Day, House of Night. In 1998 Tokarczuk moved to a small village near the Czech border and now divides her time between there and Wroclaw. For her latest novel, Bieguni [The Runners], she received Poland's top book award, the Nike Prize, in 2008.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mingo Bingo VINE VOICE on 27 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
Primeval and other times is not like other books I've read. Tokarczuk has set out to write a modern myth. It tells the story of an imaginary Polish town called Primeval. It is filled with characters who are clearly delineated archetypes and is guarded by four angels.

It follows the village as it lives through the trials of the Twentieth Century, beginning in 1914 and ending with Solidarity in 1980.

Set up as part parable, part allegory, Primeval is complicated and intellectually challenging. This is not easy bedtime reading, although like all good allegory it is possible to read it purely on face value. Tackling issues including man versus nature, masculine versus feminine and the unstoppable movement of time, this is a weighty tome, written in a deceptively simple style.

Structurally it is divided into 'Times' chapters that could be read as flash fiction, but all linking together to form the whole. Each 'Time' tells the story of a resident, mostly human, but not always. Some of them recur, some are connected, but they are all capable of standing alone. Through these snippets we follow three generations of the village and they live their lives and the world gets in the way. We see children born, people die, wars, natural disasters. We view the machinations of the world in a microcosm.

This is a book about symbolism and repetition, both within the structure and the story. Characters seem doomed to repeat the same mistakes despite the fact that the world is trying to tell them not to. Jung is in evidence here, as is Christian Scripture, and the impression is one of things happening beneath the surface.

I'm not sure I am clever enough to grasp the full level of religious and philosophical thinking that runs through 'Primeval and other Times.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jacr100 VINE VOICE on 25 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
A multi-layered, multi-generational family saga centred on a single small community that functions as a microcosm of the history of an entire nation, there is some justification in saying that Tokarczuk's novel can be considered the Polish equivalent of Marquez's classic, One Hundred Years of Solitude. It differs in taking a specifically Polish interpretation of storytelling, less focused on miracles and revolution and more inclined to draw in creation myths and the symbiosis of man to nature.

Primeval is a provincial village guarded by four angels, into which the Black River and the White River merge. It is a kind of metaphor for the Polish countryside - the great wars and political events of the twentieth century impact upon it, but its inhabitants continue to live a sealed existence. Within the village are many mythical archetypes: a "Bad Man" who lives in the woods, a witch, an old woman who talks to the moon, a man who plays a board game to understand the mind of God. The tale is structured through numerous small chapters, each entitled "The Time of...". As such we switch quickly from character to character, slowly building up a picture of the community over time.

The novel is rich with symbolism and hidden meaning - Christian allegory, pagan myth, Gnostiscim, Jungian theory and Buddhist philosophy are all woven in, but Tokarczuk's sparse style is light enough that it never feels a heavy read. Nevertheless it's the kind of book that merits a second read - or even a third.

Style: 8/10
Structure: 8/10
Originality: 9/10
Depth: 8/10
Unputdownability: 7/10
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By Sarah Noel on 18 Jan. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Drift away to the times,and people and games and fields and rivers and mushrooms of Primeval and thereabouts. So enjoyable and maybe time to revisit House of Day House of Night because for a while everything else will appear flat and dull. Olga Tokarczuk has a most amazing way with words as she floats you away from the solid to the ethereal. This is an experience you should have.
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By KNM on 7 May 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not a book I would naturally choose for myself. However it was a recommended read for our book club. It is lyrical in style and has some upbeat moments.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant Polish magical realism 23 Jun. 2011
By S. Smith-Peter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an extraordinary book and should be widely read. It is the story of a Polish village, Primeval, over the course of the 20th century. The writing is electrifying and is able to convincingly portray the state of mind of Polish peasants, Nazi and Russian soldiers, and Communists, as well as an icon, the secret world of the mushroom spawn, a ghost, a mystical game of chance, and a vain and flighty God.

The stories of human couples are intertwined with the natural and spiritual world in a series of short chapters that form a mosaic of human and non-human experience. The writing is so powerful that the reader is not so much reading as being. The plot is less important than the place, which is numinous. This reader did feel that she was indeed in the presence of something primeval.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Empathy 26 May 2013
By ALAN - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read Primeval and Other Times while spending six weeks in Goleniow Poland. I was having a hard time getting "in touch" with the land and feeling the culture. While this small town was German for centuries before World War II, it is both different and similar to Primeval. None-the-less, Takarczuk's writing gave me a much better appreciation of the trials that my neighbors and their immediate ancestors endured in the 20th century. I will definitely recommend this novel to any visitor to the beautiful country.
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