Who is Olga Tokarczuk — Man Booker Prize 2018 winner?

An activist and vocal critic of Poland’s rightwing politics, Olga Tokarczuk is a controversial figure in her home country. She has also received death threats or criticizing aspects of the country's past, including its episodes of anti-Semitism.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Published: May 23, 2018 9:29:37 am
Olga Tokarczuk won the Man Booker Prize 2018 for her book “Flights” (Source: Facebook)

Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk was named as the winner of the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for her fiction novel “Flights”. The book, translated into English by Jennifer Croft, interweaves multiple journeys in time, space and human anatomy. Both, the author and translator, will split the cash prize worth $67,000. “Tokarczuk is a writer of wonderful wit, imagination, and literary panache,” said head judge Lisa Appignanesi as the winner was announced at a ceremony in London.

Olga Tokarczuk, one of Poland’s best-known authors has written eight novels and two short story collections. Popular for the mythical tone of her writing, Tokarczuk is also the recipient of 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. A trained psychologist, Tokarczuk considers herself a disciple of Carl Jung and cites his psychology as an inspiration for her literary work. Her first book was a collection of poems entitled Miasta w lustrach (“Cities in Mirrors”). “House of Day, House of Night,” a book on the stories, sketches and essays about life past and present in her adopted home is one of her most popular books and is also her first book to be published in English.

Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, left, stands with translator Jennifer Croft after winning the Man Booker International prize 2018, for her book Flights, at the Victoria and Albert Museum Tuesday, May 22, 2018 in London. (Matt Crossick//PA via AP)

The book “Flights” also won the popular Nike Award 2008. In 2013 Tokarczuk was awarded Vilenica Prize. The Guardian called the novel “a passionate and enchantingly discursive plea for meaningful connectedness, for the acceptance of ‘fluidity, mobility, illusoriness'” in its review of June 2017. The “Books of Jacob” published in 2014 earned her another Nike Award.

An activist and vocal critic of Poland’s rightwing politics, Tokarczuk is a controversial figure in her home country. The Polish conservatives claim that she had “tarnished the good name of the nation” with her public statement and literary works. Tokarczuk was caught in the eye of the storm after her novel The Books of Jacob was released. In a television interview, Tokarczuk outraged rightwing patriots by saying that, contrary to its self-image as a plucky survivor of oppression, Poland itself had committed “horrendous acts” of colonisation at times in its history. She was branded a “targowiczanin” – an ancient term for a traitor – and her publisher had to hire bodyguards for a while to protect her, The Guardian reported. Her other work “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” was denounced by a Polish news agency as “a deeply anti-Christian [work] that promoted eco-terrorism”.  She has also received death threats or criticizing aspects of the country’s past, including its episodes of anti-Semitism.

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