Unreliable narrator

Olga Tokarczuk’s prize-winning book, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, is well-known for its unreliable narrator. For much of the novel, Janina Duszejko spins a tale in which the animal world seems to be taking revenge on a group of macho hunters. At the end of the book (spoiler alert) she reveals that it was she who murdered these odious men.

But can we be sure her closing testimony is true?

There’s a passage towards the end where Janina describes bludgeoning one of the hunters, the police commandant, to death. She then goes on to claim that she made deer prints in the snow around his body, using a preserved hoof, to suggest he had been killed by deer.

But wouldn’t that have meant all the prints were the same? A front right hoof for example, giving the impression of a herd of identical one-legged deer? Or of a single one-legged deer hopping frenziedly about during the attack, perhaps trying to keep its balance?

And how did she manage to do this without leaving a trail of her own footprints?

Has something been lost in translation? Or is the entire narrative, including the murder confessions, one sustained fantasy, none of it true?



Simon Collings

I have a new book coming out this month, Blue Eyes, from Zimzalla. It’s a zany series of episodes from an unlikely relationship between a tapir and an armadillo – playful, absurd, with dark undertones. https://zimzalla.co.uk/062-simon-collings-blue-eyes/. There’s an launch reading online on 17 April at 7pm if you’re free. I’ll be reading with Vik Shirley and Jesse Glass. Email Tom Jenks at [email protected] to register for login details. Vik will be reading from Strangers Wave, her tribute to Ian Curtis.




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One Response to Unreliable narrator

    1. We’re all unreliable narrators probably. It was nice to hear you and the others read at Zimzalla.

      Comment by tilla (Brading) on 19 April, 2024 at 8:15 pm

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