Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk has won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for fiction on for her novel Flights. The novel, translated by Jennifer Croft, narrates tales of travelling, mobility and movement and makes them a metaphor for life itself. The novel was originally published in 2008 and Tokarczuk in it plays around with what readers understand as a conventional form of a novel. She throws in several, disparate narratives like tracing the posthumous journey of Polish composer Chopin’s heart to Warsaw from Paris where he had died, or anatomist Philip Verheyen writing letters to his amputated leg and then interlaces them with short bursts of digressions, anecdotes and analysis. Flights is the third book by her that has been translated in English.
This, however, is not her only acclaimed work. A celebrated figure in Polish literature, here’s a list of her other works.
Miasta w lustrach (City of Mirrors)– Published in 1989, City of Mirrors is a collection of poems and marked the beginning of Tokarczuk’s literary journey.
Podróz ludzi ksiegi (The Journey of the people of the Book)– Published in 1993, the debut novel of Tokarczuk traces a secret association of people who intend to find the Holy Book that God had given to Adam. It is set in the 17th century in France and Spain and gained a lot of popularity.
EE- Published in 1996, the novel borrows its name from the initials of the protagonist Erna Eltzner and talks about the meaning of life and death.
Prawiek i inne czasy (Primeval and Other Times)- Published in 1996, it is considered one of the most widely read contemporary Polish novels. It talks about Prawiek, a village in Poland and the unfolding of the mundanity of everyday life. Set amidst the turbulent times of the 20th century, the novel brings to the fore narratives of several families living in the village who are fighting an everyday battle for happiness.
Szafa (The Wardrobe) – Published in 1997, it is a collection of novellas.
Dom dzienny, dom nocny (House of Day, House of Night)– Published in 1998, it is considered one of the most ambitious works of the Polish author. Bearing an overwhelming sense of melancholy, the novel entreats one to understand life and fathom and experience our existence with all its layers. It is also her first novel that was translated in English.
Lalka i perla (The Doll and the Pearl)– Published in 2000, it is considered one of the most important Polish novels of the 19th century. Tokarczuk rediscovers Boleslaw Prus’ seminal The Doll in her writing.
Gra na wielu bebenkach (Playing on Many Drums)– Published in 2001, it is a collection of short stories. Considered one of the most famous short story collections in Poland, in the book Tokarczuk places her gaze on the everyday life but refuses to linger on it superficially.
Ostatnie historie (The Last Stories)– Published in 2005, the novel is an exploration of life and death. There are three stories and all three present different ways of dealing wiith death.
Flights – Published in 2008, the novel challenges the conventional understanding of form in a novel and uses journey as a metaphor for life. This won her the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2018 making her the first Polish author to have won the honour.
Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead– Published in 2009, it is a moral thriller that takes place in Kotlina Klodzka in south–western Poland. The protagonist Janina Duszejko is a former bridge engineer and teaches English and geography in a village school. She becomes an instrument through which the author poses some important questions pertaining to human being’s responsibility towards nature.
Ksiegi jakubowe (The Book of Jacob)– Published in 2014, the novel runs for nearly 900 pages and is about one great journey that occurs through seven borders, three major religions and five languages.