The 2012 novel is more of a collection of observations and narratives, while also serving as the author's political manifesto.
Critic Joanna Bator wrote of the dialogue that the author takes up with J.M. Coetzee and Elizabeth Costello, "undermining the boundary between nature and culture, between woman and man, as well as the truth of life and the truth of a story". Some of the articles in Bear's Moment read like a guidebook, such as the chapter entitled "A Biased Little Guide to Poland for Germans on the Occasion of the Former’s Ingress into the European Union"or "How to Think Heterotopia?", a lecture on the aforementioned political philosophy. It's not a revolutionary work, but rather a statement on the ways in which those who don't conform to societal norms are ignored or oppressed - this relates in equal measure to homosexuals as to vegetarians or vegans with regard to giving people leave to indulge in their own ideologies. It also poses the question of whether empathy can be stronger than domination.
Critic Kazimiera Szczuka calls Tokarczuk's novel "deathly serious with a dash of humor, fictiveness, play. A radical opponent of nation-based ideology, she is nonetheless able to express wonderfully her own Polishness". The "Bear’s Moment" of the title is likened to a parable on finding different paths to understanding the truth in order to attain a richer quality of life. Literature is the tool that Tokarczuk uses to locate that “strange and powerful place in between numerous individual truths". As Tokarczuk writes in the book,
Over the past few years I've been haunted by the idea of writing a book in which the world would function differently. Certain obvious mechanisms would not work here. I believe that taking something for granted isn't quite linked with the issue of fact, but rather a social contract and the habits of our mind, which pertain rather to psychology than to physics.
Olga Tokarczuk (born in 1962) is one of the most critically acclaimed and most translated Polish writers, with House of Day, House of Night and Primeval and Other Tales being her greatest commercial and critical successes. She has been nominated for the Nike Literary Award several times, receiving the readers' choice of the Nike prize four times.
Bear's Moment by Olga Tokarczuk
Publisher: Krytyka Polityczna, Warsaw March 2012
125 x 195, pp. 192, hardcover
The book has not yet been translated into English or other foreign language.
Editor: Agnieszka Le Nart
Source: Polish Book Institute