Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

There’s a refrain repeated throughout the book, aimed at its main character: You care about more about animals than people. That resonated with me, partly because of how I’ve felt my entire life (I’m unable to watch nature documentaries because I can’t stand to watch animals suffer), and partly because of where my current fiction is going as I try and use it to grapple with climate change and our culpability in mass extinction and destruction of habitats.

The narrator doesn’t really see animals as something different to or lesser than people, something demonstrated by the way she will give names to animals and people, ignoring a person’s given name because she feels they rarely match the person. She even rails against her own name. By denying these human identities it’s as though she diminishes the sacred aspect that we hold for ourselves and our own. None of these people is more important than these animals, and every animal killed in the forest near her house deserves a proper burial in her cemetary yard.

So what we see through her eyes is a community of humans and non-human animals who are simply neighbours. And thus she sees people hunting and poaching in the area as murderers, and bothers the local authorities endlessly to try and get them to do something about even the legal hunting activities. The book does a great job of showing how her fellow villagers might see her as “just” a crazy old lady – constantly writing letters and working out people’s astrological charts – whilst also convincingly arguing her point of view.

It’s a slow burn of a book, but worthy of your time.

Published by

Corey J. White

Corey J. White is the author of Killing Gravity, Void Black Shadow, and Static Ruin. He studied writing at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, and is now based in Melbourne, Australia.

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