Olga Tokarczuk Nominated for the National Book Award Longlist!
#language & literature
default, Olga Tokarczuk, photo: Krzysztof Dubiel for the Polish Book Institute, center, tokarczuk_0.jpg
Man Booker International Prize-winning Polish author Olga Tokarczuk has found herself on the longlist of the prestigious American National Book Award for her book Flights. It is the first international edition of the award.
Just months after winning the Man Booker International Prize for her novel Flights, translated by Jennifer Croft, Polish author Olga Tokarczuk has been nominated for one of the USA’s most pretisgious literary prizes.
Olga Tokarczuk is one of the most critically acclaimed and most translated Polish writers, with House of Day, House of Night and Primeval and Other Tales being her greatest commercial and critical successes. She lives and works in Wałbrzych in Lower Silesia. An outstanding writer, essayist and a devotee of Jung, she is an authority on philosophy and arcane knowledge. Undeniably a great discovery in Polish literature in the nineties, she continues to be admired by both critics and readers. She is a phenomenon of popularity respected for her good taste, knowledge, literary talent, philosophical depth and knack for storytelling.
Tokarczuk has won numerous awards for her work, including the prestigious Polish awards the Polityka Passport and the Nike Literary Award and the Vilenica International Literary Prize. Her book Drive Your Plough Through the Bones of the Dead was the basis of Agnieszka Holland's award-winning movie Spoor.
man booker international prize
contemporary polish literature
Flights is a novel about travel in the 21st century and human anatomy. From the 17th century, we have the story of the real Dutch anatomist Philip Verheyen, who dissected and drew pictures of his own amputated leg, discovering in so doing the Achilles tendon. From the 18th century, we have the story of a North African-born slave turned Austrian courtier stuffed and put on display after his death in spite of his daughter’s ever more desperate protests, as well as the story of Chopin’s heart as it makes the covert journey from Paris to Warsaw, stored in a tightly sealed jar beneath his sister’s skirt.
From the present we have the trials and tribulations of a wife accompanying her much older professor husband as he teaches a course on a cruise ship in the Greek islands, the quest of a Polish woman who emigrated to New Zealand as a teenager but must now return to Poland in order to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart, and the slow descent into madness of a young husband whose wife and child mysteriously vanished on a vacation on a Croatian island and then appeared again with no explanation.
Through these narratives, interspersed with short bursts of analysis and digressions on topics ranging from travel-sized cosmetics to the Maori, Tokarczuk guides the reader beyond the surface layer of modernity and towards the core of the very nature of humankind.
Tokarczuk is the first Polish writer to be awarded the Man Booker International Prize. Sci-fi master Stanisław Lem was nominated for the first edition of award in 2005, and novelist Wioletta Greg (Wioletta Grzegorzewska) was nominated in 2017 for her book Swallowing Mercury, translated by Eliza Marciniak.
2018 marks the inaugural year for the National Book Award in translated literature, which means that all of the authors on the longlist are first-time contenders. They have, however, already attracted favourable attention outside of their countries of origin. The longlist includes:
- Négar Djavadi, Disoriental
Translated by Tina Kover
- Roque Larraquy, Comemadre
Translated by Heather Cleary
Coffee House Press
- Dunya Mikhail, The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq
Translated by Max Weiss and Dunya Mikhail
New Directions Publishing
- Perumal Murugan, One Part Woman
Translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan
Black Cat / Grove Atlantic
- Hanne Ørstavik, Love
Translated by Martin Aitken
- Gunnhild Øyehaug, Wait, Blink: A Perfect Picture of Inner Life
Translated by Kari Dickson
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers
- Domenico Starnone, Trick
Translated by Jhumpa Lahiri
- Yoko Tawada, The Emissary
Translated by Margaret Mitsutani
New Directions Publishing
- Olga Tokarczuk, Flights
Translated by Jennifer Croft
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House
- Tatyana Tolstaya, Aetherial Worlds
Translated by Anya Migdal
Alfred A. Knopf / Penguin Random House
Source: press materials, compiled by AZ & NR, Sep 2018