Day 5: Flights

Across the first month of 2020, Sophie Baggott is sharing her thirty favourite books by women from across the world. Find out more about her project to read women writers from every country worldwide here.

I knew as I was finishing the idiosyncratic Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (tr. Jennifer Croft) that I’d have to revisit the author’s writing after my project. I found Flights at times overwhelming (perhaps since I was reading it, unfittingly, on a sizzling beach on the Côte d’Azur) but dazzling in its seesawing between panoramic and microscopic outlooks. The union of Tokarczuk and Croft makes for prose that’s impossible to forget.

Reading Flights in the South of France
Reading Flights in a quiet harbour in France

In a nutshell: Entwined into the nomadic needlework of this novel are anecdotes, letters, fragmented narratives, essays; Flights is vast, formidable, flux incarnated – and can’t be nutshelled.

To pluck out a line (or a few lines, in this case): Seeing the world from above, its beautiful, peaceful order. An order that is antiseptic. Contained in shells and caves, in grains of sand and in the scheduled flights of giant airplanes, in symmetry … in the eloquent light of the information screens, and in all light.”

If I had to choose one image: A despairing mother, seemingly suffocating in the pressure of caring for a chronically ill son, flees into the facelessness of vagrancy until a scene of mistreatment chokes her back into recalling her child.

Sharing a thought: Flights felt to me like a book that requires numerous re-readings for any sense of comprehension; surfacing from it – four hundred pages later – I could scarcely remember ever beginning it.

Fact: I didn’t know, until reading Tokarczuk’s account, that the composer Chopin had made the slightly hideous(?) request that his heart be extracted from his corpse and sent from Paris back to his home country, Poland.

If you want to read Flights, visit here.

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