Olga Tokarczuk’s Anna In in the Tombs of the World: A Feminist Retelling of the Sumerian Myth of the Goddess Inanna

Alessandro Amenta


Rewriting mythological characters, tales and motifs is a popular strategy used in feminist literature from the late 20th century. Deconstructing sexist cultural canons, challenging gender normative narratives, subverting patriarchal values and offering new female perspectives are the main purposes. Within such a framework, the article analyzes the reinterpretation of the Sumerian myth of the goddess Inanna by one of Poland's most prominent writers. Olga Tokarczuk’s Anna In in the Tombs of the World employs such strategies as the modernization of the story, now set in a dystopian, high-tech and futuristic world; the introduction of a few, but significant, changes in the narrative structure, like the modification of the plot and the insertion of the figure of the Mother Goddess; the syncretic fusion of themes and topics belonging to different eras and cultures (Sumerian, Assyro-Babylonian, Classical Antiquity); and the redefinition of the psychological meanings underlying the descent of the goddess into the underworld. Ultimately, the writer carries out a deep resemantization and refunctionalization of the original Sumerian myth based on a feminist and Jungian approach. Published in the mid-2000s, the novel should be read as a critical voice in the context of the antifeminist backlash that took shape at that time in Polish politics and jeopardized feminist conquests gained to date.


Olga Tokarczuk; feminism; mythology; Jung; rewriting; Inanna

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/Studi_Slavis-22496

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