Polish Lit in Translation – Cover Battles #1 | Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

A thought came to my mind – what modern polish literature was published around the world? What was translated, how the titles were translated, and what’s most interesting for me – how to covers were changed to appeal to different cultures?

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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

A subversive, entertaining noir novel from the winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead takes place in a remote Polish village, where Janina, an eccentric woman in her sixties, recounts the events surrounding the disappearance of her two dogs. When members of a local hunting club are found murdered, she becomes involved in the investigation. Janina is reclusive, preferring the company of animals to people; she’s unconventional, believing in the stars, and she is fond of the poetry of William Blake, from whose work the title of the book is taken.

Filled with wonderful characters like Maladroit, Big Foot, Black Coat, Dizzy and Boros, this subversive, entertaining noir novel, by ‘one of Europe’s major humanist writers’ (Guardian), offers thought-provoking ideas on our perceptions of madness, injustice against marginalised people, animal rights, the hypocrisy of traditional religion, belief in predestination—and getting away with murder.

I’m three fourths in the story, so I believe I can quite fairly judge how the cover designs of the book relate to its content. You can clearly see how different art designs are for the same book. The most similar to the original is the Spanish cover, there is a small change in colours and position of the bat. Most covers have some reference to forest and animals, mostly roes, which makes very much sense for the story. The most unusual and unique cover from the bunch is the Bulgarian cover, it has nothing in common with other covers. It shows the outline of the village with a constellation map in the background… I don’t get it, and I wouldn’t say that it will be a mystery crime book. It suits more to a fantasy novel I think. However I know what was the inspiration behind this cover, the main character relates to astrology often, she collects information about people date of birth to read their horoscopes, check how planets and stars were positioned then.

I love the Australian cover design, but I also think it emits more of a joyous story with a little bit of mystery. I personally think the darker or creeper cover suit the story better. The blandest covers are for German and Spanish editions, I wouldn’t pick them up in a bookstore.

Have you read this book? What do you think of the covers? Would you say the story is the same in each book if you were looking at the covers alone? Are any of those covers from your country? Do you believe the cover was well designed to reach its target audience in your country?


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