Given that Olga Tokarczuk is a clinical psychologist, and the main character is a murderer, I thought it might be interesting to see if Janina fits the symptoms of some sort of personality disorder or mental illness. Having read several Wikipedia articles, and rescanned over the book, I have come to the conclusion that her psychological characterization is extremely realistic. Janina is a perfect case of someone with a Cluster B personality disorder.
“Cluster B personality disorders involve dramatic and erratic behaviors. People with these types of conditions display intense, unstable emotions and impulsive behaviors.”https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9636-personality-disorders-overview
Janina fits this characterization to a tee. Consider her emotions during and after the confrontation with the hunters on page 64,
“At that point I felt a surge of Anger, genuine, not to say Divine Anger. It flooded me from inside in a burning-hot wave. This energy made me feel great, as if it were lifting me off the ground, a mini Big Bang within the universe of my body. There was fire burning within me, like a neutron star…. I drove home, weeping out of helplessness.”
To put this quote into more context, the hunters were shooting pheasants. Now, I’m not someone who particularly likes hunting either, but this reaction is far from commensurate with the situation. Janina clearly feels intense, unstable emotions. She also has frequent dramatic, erratic, and impulsive behaviors. Consider her outburst at the City Guard.
“I didn’t feel like speaking anymore. I thrust a hand into my pocket, pulled out a ball of bloodstained Boar bristles, and put it down on the desk in front of them. Their first impulse was to lean forward, but they instantly recoiled in disgust.”
Again, I can feel frustrated with bureaucracy, but I can say with confidence that I have never throw the entrails of a dead boar onto the desk of a bureaucrat, despite how tempting it’s been. Janina clearly exhibits impulsive behavior. So, having narrowed it down to a Cluster B personality disorder, which exact disorder does she exhibit? I don’t think she has borderline personality disorder, as she doesn’t exhibit low self-esteem (quite the opposite really) or any particular relationship difficulty. She also doesn’t seem to need the approval of others, so that’s a no to histrionic personality disorder. She is kind of narcissistic, but, again, she doesn’t need praise or approval from others, so another no to narcissistic personality disorder. Therefore, by process of elimination, I think that she has anti-social personality disorder.
“People with ASPD show a lack of respect toward others and don’t follow socially accepted norms or rules. People with ASPD may break the law or cause physical or emotional harm to others around them. They may refuse to take responsibility for their behaviors and/or display disregard for the negative consequences of their actions.”https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9636-personality-disorders-overview
To go down the checklist again, Janina seems to have a constant lack of disregard for others and socially accepted norms and rules. Consider the fact that she calls one of her closest friends Oddball. Even to people she likes, she consistently refers to them in derogatory or dismissive terms. If we consider hunting as a socially acceptable norm and activity in rural Poland, her hatred of it can be seen as her refusal to follow socially accepted norms and rules. This is also evidenced by her robbing Bigfoot’s house at the beginning of the book (how many people, even to someone they dislike, would snoop around a dead man’s house looking for their ID card and stuff to take?), and, of course, she breaks the law by murdering people. For the final few criteria, of refusing to take responsibility for their behaviors and displaying disregard for the negative consequences of their actions, notice that Janina has said, repeatedly, throughout the book, that animals were taking their revenge on the murder victims. She is an unreliable narrator, and she doesn’t mention that she is the murderer until the very end, this seems like a refusal to take responsibility for her behavior to me. And consider some of her interactions with her victims.
“I took him under the arm and dragged him to his feet. ‘Why are you crying?’ I asked. ‘You’re so kind…’ ‘I know,’ I replied.”
For context, she said this to a man she was about to summarily murder. She never expresses regret for her crimes, and she doesn’t seem to realize the negative consequences of her murders. I think all of this is very convincing evidence for her having ASPD.