On June 1, a new novel by Olga Tokarczuk was published | is happening

At the beginning of the twentieth century, in a tuberculosis sanatorium shrouded in Sudeten mists, patients discuss the innate inferiority of women, taking a hallucinogenic tincture – this is the starting point of a new, first after Nobel, Olga Tokarczuk’s novel “Imbosgon. The horror of natural medicine “, published On 1 June.

Work on the book began in the fall of 1913 in the health resort of Görbersdorf (today Sokołowsko in Lower Silesia, where in 1855 the world’s first sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis was established). A student from Lviv, Mieczysław Wojnicz, comes to the picturesque building at the foot of the mountains, hoping that innovative air and local methods will work wonders in his case. Tokarczuk in “Empuzjonie” consciously refers to Thomas Mann’s “magic mountain” – just as in the classic novel, a stay in a sanatorium allows the heroes to step out of everyday life, looking at the world and themselves from a distance, connections they would never have made in life natural. In the gentlemen’s pension, where Mieczysław is in a room, he meets, among other things, Longin Lukas – a Catholic from Kruljevik, August – a socialist from Prague, Walter Frommer – theosophist from Breslau, Thelo von Hahn – a drawing student from Berlin. In the sanatorium you have a lot of time to think and talk – and that’s what the heroes of Impossible do.

They discuss – as in Mann – the specter of war on Europe, the problems of monarchy and democracy, the existence of demons. The reality of the village, where the sanatorium is located, also provides topics for conversation. As in the “Magic Mountain”, potential mentors to a young Lviv child quickly appear from among the group of patients, everyone is trying to influence him and form his character and the way he sees the world. There is also a mysterious woman in a large hat, carelessly clutching her hands in the pockets of her jacket, which greatly affects the imagination of a young Lviv, as was the case with Madame Chauchat and the main character of the “Magic Mountain”

“Imbosgon” is another book written by Tokarczuk in the Kolodzko Valley. The special microclimate of this land means that the summer is very short here, and there are not many sunny days in the year – usually mysterious fogs rise above the forests on the slopes of the mountains, and the light penetrating the damp trees gives optical illusions – in a word: this is a dream scene from a horror movie . Already on the first day after Mieczysław arrived in Görbersdorf, the wife of the guest house host committed suicide. It turns out that sudden deaths in the region are frequent, not least because of the inevitable death of tuberculosis from the sanatorium. Mysterious incidents happen in the village every year, mostly in November, which is just coming. However, it is impossible to know what is true in the stories told by patients, and what is gossip, from a figment of imagination.

Nature is the protagonist of this novel on an equal footing with humans, but mushrooms play a particularly important role. One day, patients go for a walk and find a great abundance of chanterelles and boletus growing in the facades. We are very happy to collect it and the possibility to have mushroom sauce for dinner, but the actual purpose of the trip is different. It is a small, inconspicuous mushroom on long stems with caps resembling the breast of females. Tokarczuk describes it as a kind of lint cap, although authorities in the field (such as Kamil Sipowicz in his study of Polish medicines) prove that hallucinogenic mushrooms growing in the Polish mountains are bald spots. In any case, they have a consciousness-altering effect, and indigenous patients took a recipe for an excellent tincture on this mushroom.

They drink it little from morning to evening and it is very difficult to tell how much it affects their perception of reality. Mushrooms, who at one point in the novel appear as the narrator, notice from the level of algae strange activities wandering near the primates with the deep conviction that the age of humans is but the twinkling of an eye, a fleeting moment in the face of the solidity of their existence. In a sense, the mushroom also affects the behavior of the protagonists who eat a hallucinogenic tincture. This is not unusual – history knows cases of madness epidemics caused by the consumption of cereals contaminated with the hallucinogenic fungus – ergot. Some historians associate the famous history of the Salem Witch Trials with this type of poisoning.

In 1639, the vicinity of Görbersdorf became the scene of dramatic events related to witch hunts. There were many trials and executions, and some women from the area hid in the forests for some time. Rumor has it that not all of them returned home, some miraculously still live and from time to time intervene in the life of the village vengefully. The popular intuition linking femininity with unbridled nature and cruelty is reflected in the dialogues of educated patients.

“Scientific research has shown that the female brain functions completely differently, and even has a different structure. First, it is a question of size and, at the same time, focus on other areas. Where there is will in a man, in a woman we have desire. When a man has a will. Understanding numbers. And compositions in general, women are mothers … ”- says one of the characters, adding that women’s brains are “only smaller”. “By the way, when you sometimes talk to women” – another person notes – “you get the impression that they respond sensibly and think like us. And this is an illusion. They imitate the way we communicate and some, it must be admitted, are very good at that.”

“We cannot treat a woman’s action as fully conscious. Feminine psychology has demonstrated that a woman is both an object and an object, so her choices can only be partially conscious… […] Women are by nature more sensitive and sensitive, which is why they easily tend to unthinkable actions, “adds another character.” Women represent the past and the lower stage of development, writes Mr. Darwin, and he has something to say here. Women are like evolutionary backward. While the man progresses and acquires new skills, the woman remains in her old place and does not develop. That is why women are often socially disabled, cannot cope on their own and must always support themselves on the man. He must like it. Manipulation, smile “- says another.

Tokarczuk puts in the mouths of the heroes of “Imbosgon” a selection of quotes from that era, the views that were very popular at the beginning of the twentieth century. Such and similar judgments were announced, among others, by Freud, Pound, Strindberg, Yeats. These statements are at the core of patriarchal culture, but it is not just women who are its victims in this novel. The main character – not without reason called his domineering father “Mieczysław” – is also oppressed, forced to take on the role of man, warrior, conqueror, brute. Society tells him to reject all that is tender, soft, and undefined. But it is Mieczysław who manages to escape the patriarchal trap. At the end of Mana, Hans Kastrup went to the fore, and Mieczysław was granted freedom of self-determination by the next Great War.

The title of Impossible, as Tokarczuk explained in an interview with Michai Nogas, is “The Variant of +Symposium +” which is the Platonic feast of the sages. However, the word also relates to Embusas, the goddess of fear in Greek mythology. So you can try to translate this title, for example, as “Feast of the Gods of Fear.” The subtitle – “The Horror of Natural Medicine” – will confirm this kind of intuition.

In her new novel, the author reveals facts about the world to readers that we either don’t notice, or don’t want to leave ourselves at any cost” — as we can read on Olga Tokarczuk’s official Instagram profile. “Imbosgon” is the Nobel Prize winner’s first novel since publishing “Jacob Books” 2014. Premiere June 1st.

Wydawnictwo Literackie will publish “Empuzjon. Horror Naturileczniczy”. (PAP)

Author: Agata Szwedowicz

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