In summer 2021, it could be a bit too on the nose to read a novel that deals primarily with human mortality and foreign travel. But Flights is a gorgeous read and its darkness wonderfully offset by Tokarczuk’s playful style.
The book is made up of vignettes, varying in length from a paragraph of observation to a short story. They go back and forth between the 21st century — to Chopin’s death or the breakdown of a 17th century Dutch anatomist — and are bound together by reflections from the anonymous narrator, who herself is constantly travelling from place to place. Through the different times and places Tokarczuk takes us echo the book’s common themes of life, death, anatomy, motion. By some magic (or, rather, her incredible skill), that is enough to make it hang together.
I am so excited to read more Tokarczuk. I discovered her last year, picking up another of her novels in Highbury’s lovely Ink@84 mainly because she’d won the Nobel prize for literature in 2019 and thought I should give her a try. It’s also more proof that Fitzcarraldo Editions publish beautiful things and I’d quite like to own them all.