Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize on May 22, 2O18 for fiction for Flights, a novel that charts multiple journeys in time, space and human anatomy. Flights beat five other finalists, including Iraqi writer Ahmed Saadawi’s horror story Frankenstein in Baghdad and South Korean author Han Kang’s meditative novel The White Book. Ms. Tokarczuk’s novel combines tales of modern-day travel with the story of a 17th century anatomist who dissected his own amputated leg and the journey of composer Frederic Chopin’s heart from Paris to Warsaw after his death.
The judging panel led by writer Lisa Appignanesi called Flights a witty, playful novel in which “the contemporary condition of perpetual movement” meets the certainty of death. One of Poland’s best known authors. Ms. Tokarczuk is one of Poland’s best-known authors. She has been criticised by Polish conservatives and received death threats for criticising aspects of the country’s past, including its episodes of anti-Semitism.
About the Author
Olga Tokarczuk born 29 January 1962 is a Polish writer, activist, and public intellectual who has been described as one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful authors of her generation. Tokarczuk was born in Sulechów near Zielona Góra, Poland. Before starting her literary career, from 1980 she trained as a psychologist at the University of Warsaw. During her studies, she volunteered in an asylum for adolescents with behavioural problems. After her graduation in 1985, she moved first to Wrocław and later to Wałbrzych, where she began practising as a therapist. Tokarczuk considers herself a disciple of Carl Jung and cites his psychology as an inspiration for her literary work. Since 1998, Tokarczuk has lived in a small village near Nowa Ruda, from where she also manages her private publishing company Ruta. She is a member of the political party The Greens, and has leftist convictions.
Tokarczuk is particularly noted for the mythical tone of her writing. She trained as a psychologist at the University of Warsaw and published a collection of poems, several novels, as well as other books with shorter prose works. Flights won the Nike Award, Poland’s top literary prize, in 2008. She attended the 2010 Edinburgh Book Festival to discuss her book Primeval and Other Times and other work. With her novel Księgi jakubowe (The Books of Jacob), Tokarczuk won the Nike Award again in 2015. In the same year, Tokarczuk received the German-Polish International Bridge Prize, a recognition extended to persons especially accomplished in the promotion of peace, democratic development and mutual understanding among the people and nations of Europe.
About the Prize
The prize is a counterpart to the Man Booker Prize for English-language novels and is open to books in any language that have been translated into English. The £50,000 ($67,000) award is split evenly between the writer and her translator, Jennifer Croft.