Datura (Or a Delusion We All See) – Leena Krohn

“In the dark recesses of my chest, alveoli perish one by one. How many are there? How many do I need to be able to live and breathe? How little I know of the ceaseless workings of my insides—a space where thrombocytes float to the beat of my still-hot heart.”- Leena Krohn, Datura (Or a Delusion We All See)

I picked up this book because of the Tori Amos song and for not the first time I’m really pleased with one of my impulse reads. I can definitely say I was hooked from the first page.

This was an interesting about an asthmatic woman working for “The New Anomalist”, a magazine focusing on the esoteric and weird. Her job is to look for strange stories in her city, and it leads her to encounter the strangest people:

“Sometimes we got messages from “Otherkin,” people who didn’t think they were humans, but other forms of life.”

To add to the strangeness in her work life, she is given a datura plant for her birthday and starts experimenting with the seeds. Over the course of the story we have a case of an unreliable narrator who is possibly hallucinating, but we also an interesting look at reality.

“Datura” revolves around flowers and plants, and also the Voynich manuscript, a currently untranslated manuscript, which adds even more mystery to this book:

“The Voynich manuscript is an odd book, but then again, all books are odd…Many times I’ve found myself thinking of writing in general, books, their meaning, the way in which they exist. I ask myself what writing actually is. How the personal changes into the public, and why it must be so.”

There was so much  beautiful language in this book, I can only imagine how beautiful it must read in Finnish:

“There are moments when everything is new, as if seen or heard for the first time, even language, words that I’ve read a thousand times. People, landscapes, items, even books. Now and then I stop at a familiar word as I read, and all of a sudden it amazes me, and I savour it like a new taste. For a fraction of a second I hesitate: what does the word refer to, does it really signify anything at all?”

Additionally, there was the interesting discussion of plants, in particular the ever-present datura:

“I hope you understand that plants, too, are conscious. The consciousness of plants resembles human dreaming. That, too, is consciousness.”

The previous line interested me because in the book Braiding Sweetgrass,  the author explained how in Native American culture, it is widely known that plants do communicate and have consciousness. It seems to be a case of Western science (finally) catching up with indigenous knowledge.

“We don’t actually know what plants really are. We think they are passive, weak, harmless. What a delusion! The earth holds no greater power than the energy of the plant kingdom. Mankind’s clumsy dabbling on the earth cannot compare to such creativity.”

I would definitely recommend this book. Not only is it a quick read, it’s a very interesting one too.

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