Olga Tokarczuk on the narrator of Genesis

I also dream of a new kind of narrator―a “fourth-person” one, who is not merely a grammatical construct of course, but who manages to encompass the perspective of each of the characters, as well as having the capacity to step beyond the horizon of each of them, who sees more and has a wider view, and who is able to ignore time. Oh yes, I think this narrator’s existence is possible.

Have you ever wondered who the marvelous storyteller is in the Bible who calls out in a loud voice: “In the beginning was the word”? Who is the narrator who describes the creation of the world, its first day, when chaos was separated from order, who follows the serial about the origin of the universe, who knows the thoughts of God, is aware of his doubts, and with a steady hand sets down on paper the incredible sentence: “And God saw that it was good”? Who is this, who knows what God thought?

Leaving aside all theological doubts, we can regard this figure of a mysterious, tender narrator as miraculous and significant. This is a point of view, a perspective from where everything can be seen. Seeing everything means recognizing the ultimate fact that all things that exist are mutually connected into a single whole, even if the connections between them are not yet known to us. Seeing everything also means a completely different kind of responsibility for the world, because it becomes obvious that every gesture “here” is connected to a gesture “there,” that a decision taken in one part of the world will have an effect in another part of it, and that differentiating between “mine” and “yours” starts to be debatable.

Olga Tokarczuk’s Nobel lecture, translated by Jennifer Croft & Antonia Lloyd-Jones

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2018

Published by Catherine Addington

I am a translator from Spanish to English and a writer on saints, myths, and icons in both religious and secular contexts.

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