Review: Flights - Olga Tokarczuk
Genre: Literary Fiction
Published: Riverhead Books 2018, originally pubished as Bieguni in 2007.
My Rating: DNF
“Move. Get going. Blessed is he who leaves.”
You know those books where you love the idea behind them, but deeply dislike the execution, so you end up with this feeling of cognitive dissonance on how you actually feel about the product itself? That’s Flights for me.
On paper, this should be a run-away success, and based off the backflap synopsis I was expecting a 5-star read. This novel promises an interlinking narrative with a central theme of travel, movement and flux. Along the way it references mythology, science, and body (particularly paralleling the mapping of the world via cartography with the mapping of the body through by early physicians and anatomists). Obviously, this ticks on my buzzwords: brilliant, I wish I’d have thought of this myself, 5-star prediction. Unfortunately, the problem isn’t the themes; it’s everything else…
First things first; is not a novel. It’s not even a novel interspliced with scientific/travel-related interludes. If you want to read that, I recommend Sight by Jessie Greengrass.
It's not an interlinked short-story collection in a central world/theme either. If you’re looking for a great example of that, I recommend How High We Go in the Dark by Sequioa Nagamatsu.
This is more so a series of vignettes, vaguely circling a central theme, that overall lack the cohesion to form a whole for me. Other reviewers have loved this specific aspect of it as something innovative, and that’s valid. Personally, I found it disjointed, and above all, not the best or first time this kind of narrative was attempted.
Because of this disjointed feeling, Flights becomes less than the sum of its parts, rather than more. Character-development is in all the uncoordinated motion, and interesting concepts lack the needed depth, ending up as oversimplified statements like “change will aways be a nobler thing than permanence”. There’s a difference between purposeful/mindful travel and aimless, frantic wandering. This book was the second.
Find this book here on Goodreads.