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Primeval and Other Times

Olga Tokarczuk

Top 10 Best Quotes

“Below the mill the rivers merge. First they flow close beside each other, undecided, overawed by their longed-for intimacy, and then they fall into each other and get lost in one another. The river that flows out of this melting pot by the mill is no longer either the White or the Black, but it is powerful and effortlessly drives the mill wheel that grinds the grain for bread. Primeval lies on both the White and Black rivers and also on the third one, formed out of their mutual desire. The river arising from their confluence below the mill is called The River, and it flows on calm and contented.”

“There are two kinds of learning, from the inside and from the outside. The fist is regarded as the best, or even the only kind. And so people learn through distant journeys, watching, reading, universities and lectures — they learn from what is happening outside them. Man is a stupid creature who had to learn. So he tacks knowledge onto himself, he gathers it like a bee, gaining more and more of it, putting it to use and processing it. But the thing inside that is "stupid" and needs learning doesn't change. Cornspike learned by absorbing things from the outside to the inside. Knowledge that is only grown on the outside changes nothing inside a man, or merely changes him on the surface, as one garment is changed for another. But he who learns by taking things inside himself undergoes constant transformation, because he incorporates what he learns into his being. So by taking the stinking, dirty peasants from Primeval and the district into herself, Cornspike became just like them, was drunk just like them, frightened by the war just like them, and aroused just like them. What's more, by taking them into herself in the bushes behind the inn, Cornspike also took in their wives, their children, and their stuffy, stinking wooden cottages around Maybug Hill. In a way she took the entire village into herself, every pain in the village, and every hope.”

“People think they live more intensely than animals, than plants, and especially than things. Animals sense that they live more intensely than plants and things. Plants dream that they live more intensely than things. But things last, and this lasting is more alive than anything else.”

“There are two kinds of learning, from the inside and from the outside. The first is regarded as the best, or even the only kind. And so people learn through distant journeys, watching, reading, universities and lectures — they learn from what is happening outside them. Man is a stupid creature who has to learn. So he tacks knowledge onto himself, he gathers it like a bee, gaining more and more of it, putting it to use and processing it. But the thing inside that is “stupid” and needs learning doesn’t change.”

“It is strange that God, who is beyond the limits of time, manifests Himself within time and its transformations. If you don’t know “where” God is – and people sometimes ask such questions – you have to look at everything that changes and moves, that doesn’t fit into a shape, that fluctuates and disappears: the surface of the sea, the dances of the sun’s corona, earthquakes, the continental drift, snows melting and glaciers moving, rivers flowing to the sea, seeds germinating, the wind that sculpts mountains, a foetus developing in its mother’s belly, wrinkles near the eyes, a body decaying in the grave, wines maturing, or mushrooms growing after a rain. God is present in every process. God is vibrating in every transformation. Now He is there, now there is less of Him, but sometimes He is not there at all, because God manifests Himself even in the fact that He is not there. People – who themselves are in fact a process – are afraid of whatever is impermanent and always changing, which is why they have invented something that doesn’t exist – invariability, and recognised that whatever is eternal and unchanging is perfect. So they have ascribed invariability to God, and that was how they lost the ability to understand Him.”

“Imagination is essentially creative; it is a bridge reconciling matter and spirit. Especially when it is done intensely and often. Then the image turns into a drop of matter, and joins the currents of life. Sometimes along the way something in it gets distorted and changes. Therefore, if they are strong enough, all human desires come true — but not always entirely as expected.”

“Then for a brief moment he saw everything completely differently. Open space, empty and endless, stretched away in all “directions. Everything within this dead expanse, every living thing was helpless and alone. Things were happening by accident, and when the accident failed, automatic law appeared – the rhythmical machinery of nature, the cogs and pistons of history, conformity with the rules that was rotting from the inside and crumbling to dust. Cold and sorrow reigned everywhere. Every creature was trying to huddle up to something, to cling to something, to things, to each other, but all that resulted was suffering and despair. The quality of what Izydor saw was temporality. Under a colourful outer coating everything was merging in collapse, decay, and destruction.”

“If you take a close look at an object, with your eyes closed to avoid being deceived by the appearances that things exude around themselves, if you allow yourself to be mistrustful, you can see their true faces, at least for a moment. Things are beings steeped in another reality, where there is no time or motion. Only their surface can be seen. The rest, hidden elsewhere, defines the significance and meaning of each material object. A coffee grinder, for example. The grinder is just such a piece of material infused with the concept of grinding. Grinders grind, and that is why they exist. But no one knows what the grinder means in general. Perhaps the grinder is a splinter off some total, fundamental law of transformation, a law without which this world could not go round or would be completely different. Perhaps coffee grinders are the axis of reality, around which everything turns and unwinds, perhaps they are more important for the world than people. And perhaps Misia’s one single grinder is the pillar of what is called Primeval.”

“God-the-man has more important matters in his head: wars, catastrophes, conquests, and distant journeys … Women take care of the food.”

“The light moved within itself and flared up. A pillar of light tore into the darkness and there it found matter that had been immobile forever. It struck it with full force, until it awoke God in it. Still unconscious, still unsure what He was, God looked around Him, and as He saw no one apart from Himself, He realised that He was God. And unnamed for Himself, incomprehensible to Himself, He felt the desire to know Himself. When He looked closely at Himself for the first time, the Word came forth –it seemed to God that knowing was naming.”

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Book Keywords:

things, self, transience, time, imagination, knowledge, man-vs-woman, light, creation, knowing, naming, primeval-and-other-times, god, existence, temporality, permanence, learning

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