To be honest, this novel by Oiga Tokauk – Polish writer who received the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature – is not the kind of books that I feel they were written for me, they come at just the right time. There are times when only reading really pulls me out of my inner stagnation or crisis. But it’s also a book I can’t get rid of even though the last days of the year are filled with pressure. Bieguni posed too many challenges to my reading. Because of my stubbornness, and also because of trying to be the most honest with myself, I didn’t want to give up on it. Olga Tokarczuk’s work seems to ask me one thing: Do you actually know how to read a novel?
Please answer No. It’s sad to say that. The book broke at least three ideas in my mind. The first is the integrity of the structure of a literary work. Bieguni challenged me to find any connection between the 116 fragments of the novel. Although before and after reading Bieguni I knew fragmentation is its most prominent feature, the writer refuses to create a coherent system, a calculation to piece together what is broken, but I still think that no matter how broken, no matter how loose, there must be some force to unify all these fragments into a world of art. Bieguni is, in my opinion, more extreme than Milorad Pavic’s Dictionary of Khazars or Oliver Rolin’s World in a Day because both of these novels still coalesce in the form of something bordered – a wordbook. dictionary, a newspaper. Bieguni reminds one of a river flowing into the sea and from there, before it, only the horizon grows further and further away. As the name suggests, it’s a novel about a state of constant motion, change, and shapelessness. Second, it challenges the linearity of literal reading. I almost had to rewind several passages, instead of turning from page to page. Since there is almost a lack of a continuous plot at the same time with the intermingling of all kinds of texts – stories, prose, announcements, philosophical reflections, I always wonder if I’m missing something. Any previous clues, will I realize the return of a character, an icon or a motif, will I remove a piece of this passage or mess up the order of the fragments, will anything change? Reading, therefore, becomes a chore, and then after a while, it is the novel that returns me to a slow, leisurely state – a pleasure that modern-day Milan Kundera seems to have taken away. in people when they are caught up in the ever-increasing speed of life. Third, how to identify the narrator in the novel? Judging by the signs on the surface, from the very first paragraph it seems easy to determine the presence of the narrator in the first person. But then very quickly, we realize that there is also a third person transitional narrator appearing in many passages, and it seems that even the narrator in the first person is not identical in the different passages. : when melancholy, when joking, when rational, when daydreaming. The narrator (whoever he is) doesn’t quite see everything: even the longer passages seem to deny the ending.