2020 Shortlist

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead


Translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

2020 Shortlist

Dramatised reading of  Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, performed by Cathy Belton. Produced by Bazar Productions.

In this special podcast series, Caelainn Hogan and Jessica Traynor explore Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead  and speak to author Olga Tokarczuk.

Comments from the Judging Panel

Olga Tokarczuk’s eccentric, wry, headstrong narrator, Janina Duszejko, a former bridge-construction engineer, animal lover and environmentalist, ‘made for a life of solitude’, gives an engaging and compelling account of a threatened planet, of life and of five mysterious deaths in a remote district on the Polish-Czech border. With humour, often black and anarchic, and believing that ‘the best conversations are with yourself’, Duszejko, now in her sixties, in an immediate, vivid and companionable narrative, explores astronomy, religion, William Blake’s poetry. Though Tokarczuk’s Janina believes ‘sorrow is an important word for defining the world’, the reader is invited to rethink patriarchy, power, authority in what is ultimately an uplifting novel.

Above the Novel

In a remote Polish village, Janina devotes the dark winter days to studying astrology, translating the poetry of William Blake, and taking care of the summer homes of wealthy Warsaw residents. Her reputation as a crank and a recluse is amplified by her not-so-secret preference for the company of animals over humans. Then a neighbor, Big Foot, turns up dead. Soon other bodies are discovered, in increasingly strange circumstances. As suspicions mount, Janina inserts herself into the investigation, certain that she knows whodunnit.

Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is a provocative exploration of the murky borderland between sanity and madness, justice and tradition, autonomy and fate. Whom do we deem sane? Who is worthy of a voice?

About the Author

Olga Tokarczuk is one of Poland’s most celebrated writers, translated into more than thirty languages. She is the author of ten works of fiction, including Flights, which won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize and was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award in Translation.

Librarian’s Comments

The Wroclaw Public Library is honored to nominate Olga Tokarczuk, Polish Laureate of the Man Booker Prize in 2018 for the novel Flights. First published in 2009 and translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones in 2019 “Drive your plow through the bones of the dead” is an ecological thriller with strong feminist factors depicting the most characteristic factors of the Tokarczuk style: unconventional plot and contemporary satire. As always, Olga Tokarczuk stands out from the crowd and looks for philosophical insights. The author draws us into this original story and does not leave us indifferent to the last page. Miejska Biblioteka Publiczna we Wrocławiu, Poland



Fitzcarraldo Editions


Stay in touch and sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates on the Dublin Literary Award.