In her Nobel Prize Speech, Olga Tokarczuk advocates for new types of storytelling, ones that defy traditional narrative structures. Older narrative constructions have been used to control the world, a fact, she insists, every tyrant knows. Today, we need to find new narrative forms, because “we lack new ways of telling the story of the world.” Tokarczuk’s oeuvre marks a step in the direction of a new form of telling stories, one that will help make sense of the contemporary world. Tokarczuk has dubbed this new form the constellation novel, told through the titular tender narrator of her lecture in Oslo.
Tokarczuk is not alone, however, but a part of a long line of Central European authors who have developed non-narrative works. In direct contrast to the long line of thinkers, specifically Jerome Bruner, Paul Ricoeur, and Charles Taylor, Central European authors developed a new set of anti-narratological paradigms, beginning from Rainer Marie Rilke, continuing through Dezső Kosztolányi, Bruno Schulz, Bohumil Hrabal, to the present with Tokarczuk herself.
Daniel W. Pratt is assistant professor of Slavic culture at McGill University. He works on Czech, Polish, Russian, Austrian, and Hungarian literature and culture, and his interests include narratology, dissent, nationality studies, aesthetics, and the intersection of literature and philosophy. His current book projects are Against Narrative: Non-narrative Constructions of Temporality in Central Europe and Bruno Jasieński, Internationalist, and he has written on Czechoslovak dissident punk rock, Gombrowicz’s interactions with Gilles Delleuze, and the meaning of history in Central Europe, amongst other topics. For the Fall semester of 2023, he is the István Deák Visiting Assistant Professor at Columbia.