Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine



Olga Tokarczuk, my most favouritest writer of them all, has an article in the latest Polityka. It’s travel literature, my most favouritest genre of them all. She’s been to China: “His [Mao’s] face is found in the most unlikely places: on the walls of buildings–” Hold on, hold on a minute there. The wall of a building is an unusual place to find the image of a dead communist leader? Has Tokarczuk never heard of Cuba? — “on the label of a bottle of mineral water, on wallets, on tiszerty [sic]–” Again, just a minute there. A tee-shirt is an unusual place to find the picture of a dead communist leader? Has Tokarczuk never heard of students? — “and the faces of watches.”

“How is it possible that someone who caused so many deaths is worshipped by the people?” she asks someone. The person answers (“calmly and with conviction”) that Mao is like a river, sowing destruction but also fertilising land. If a westerner wrote like Tokarczuk Polish critics would be all over him like a rash, and rightly so. China is a totalitarian state, they would say. Such a naive question would be treated with great suspicion, as a provocation. The wrong answer could lead to the work camps, and so on. Has Tokarczuk never heard of communist Poland? She was born there, after all.

This is why, Kapuściński aside, I don’t like travel writing

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