Anna In: A New Novel by Nobel Prize Winner Olga Tokarczuk | NDR.de – Culture – Book

Status: 03.06.2022 09:11 AM

In her novel Anna In, Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk explores a 4,000-year-old theme: the legend of Inanna. It is the original version of all the stories about the descent into the underworld and is now available with a new translation.

by Julian Bergmann

shimmering place. People are running. State-of-the-art architecture. The gardens hang from the sky, decorated with fairy lights, lanterns, and paper flowers. Autorickshaw drivers bend through the narrow streets between skyscrapers. And in the middle of the sophisticated network of elevators was moving: Anna-in, the daring and beautiful ruler of this futuristic city, the goddess of the upper world.

Anna En sees everything alive – every gear in the world. The outline of the elevator is lit on the wall – a huge tangle of lines reminiscent of nervous tissue with all its threads, bundles and branches. You are nothing more than a small impulse, a temporary strangeness in space – you should never forget that.

Anna’s Journey to the Underworld

The worlds created by Olga Tokarczuk to reinterpret the Sumerian myth of Inanna are fantasy and modern. With the agility and drive of a computer game, it tells of Anna In’s journey to the underworld. Hell’s architecture is also impressive – with its portals, guards, human demons, and strange characters. Few of the world’s fairy-tale aesthetics are like the legendary painter Hieronymus Bosch. The setting is dark, but by no means intimidating. The goddess follows the call of her twin sister, who in turn rules the subterranean catacombs. A very important meeting of the sisters:

They kiss each other on the cheek. They don’t need to say anything – they probably know each other’s thoughts. The lips of some are dry and warm – the lips of others are stone cold, wet and covered with moss.

Anna En dies in her sister’s dark caves. No one has returned from there. Now is the time to bring it back to life. A difficult rescue operation begins.

Descriptions of fairy tales

Olga Tokarczuk arranges her story in clear divisions: light and darkness, this world and the afterlife, life and death. Almost magical. At the same time, the author dares to do something new: she combines technical achievements and contemporary phenomena with the story of human creation and historical traditions in Sumerian cuneiform writing. Feminist commentaries also appear: the mother of the gods creates good souls, while the fathers of the gods, drunk with power and uselessness, hang around in what they call the kingdom of offices.

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Visually powerful poetic language

The language translated by Lisa Palmes especially shines in this novel. It’s visually powerful, dated, very poetic and always funny. This is how twin sister Anna Ennis describes the world – and reveals her longing:

“You have the sun, the moon, the stars and the constellations, you have people, friends, warm nights, smell and taste. You have lusty lovers, their skin is soft, their bodies drink love, you have sheets and duvets and fragrant soaps, pink sheets of powder and lipstick you have fights followed by settling nightmares to wake up from you paper that doesn’t form Easily you have songs stories poems to savor it all you need a million lives. You have such wealth. And I? Would you like to trade with me?”

The sisters are – as the book says – “like two sides of the same coin” – and they complement each other. Accordingly, Anna En looks back at her own darkness on her journey.

Boldly and resolutely, Olga Tokarczuk addresses this important topic. He reads fluently and rhythmically. No sign of pity or moldiness. What a wonderful journey through a wonderful underworld!


A new novel by Olga Tokarczuk, the Nobel Prize winner in literature, was published in her native Poland on Wednesday. The Polish title, which has yet to be translated into German, translates to “Empusion. A horror of physiotherapy” and is a deliberate reference to Thomas Mann’s novel “The Magic Mountain,” Tokarczuk told Gazeta Wyborcza. Work on the book begins in the fall of 1913 in the spa town of Görbersdorf, today’s Sokolovsko in Lower Silesia. The world’s first tuberculosis sanatorium was established there in 1855.

Anna in. A trip to the catacombs of the world

by Olga Tokarczuk

page number:
192 pages
Type:
a novel
additional information:
From Polish Lisa Palmes (re-translation)
publisher:
kamba
Order number:
978-3-311-10074-4
price:
22 EUR

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Culture NDR | New books | 06/03/2022 | 12:40 pm

Keywords for this article

Novels

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