Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk wins Man Booker International Prize
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Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk wins Man Booker International Prize

The novel by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft, won the £50,000 (57,000 euros, $67,000) prize after coming on top of a shortlist of six titles.

books Updated: May 23, 2018 08:59 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Polish novelist,Olga Tokarczuk,Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk
Polish author Olga Tokarczuk smiles after winning the Man Booker International prize 2018, for her book Flights, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. (AP)

An English translation of Polish novel ‘Flights’, which interweaves narratives of travel with explorations of the human body, was on Tuesday named as the winner of the prestigious Man Booker International Prize.

The novel by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft, won the £50,000 (57,000 euros, $67,000) prize after coming top of a shortlist of six titles. The money will be split between the author and translator.

“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.

“In ‘Flights’, brilliantly translated by Jennifer Croft, by a series of startling juxtapositions she flies us through a galaxy of departures and arrivals, stories and digressions, all the while exploring matters close to the contemporary and human predicament - where only plastic escapes mortality,” Appignanesi added.

Flights recounts a sheaf of stories on Tokarczuk’s theme, including the 17th century tale of Dutch anatomist Philip Verheyen, who dissected and drew pictures of his own amputated leg and the 19th century story of Chopin’s heart as it makes the covert journey from Paris to Warsaw after his death.

British paper 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 Financial Times wrote: “The story of a woman who is perpetually travelling is a philosophical tale for our frantic times.”

“The book’s prose is a lucid medium in which narrative crystals grow to an ideal size, independent structures not disturbing the balance of the whole,” wrote Adam Mars-Jones in the London Review of Books.

Tokarczuk is the author of eight novels and two short-story collections whilst Croft is an accomplished translator of Polish, Spanish and Ukrainian. The Man Booker International Prize celebrates the English translations of works of international literature.

She also co-wrote the screenplay for the Polish crime film Spoor, which won the Alfred Bauer Prize for a work of particular innovation at the Berlin film festival in 2017.

Spoor was also selected as Poland’s entry for the best foreign language film at the 2018 Oscars.

When not travelling, Tokarczuk divides her time between an apartment in Poland’s western city of Wroclaw and her mountain home. Her books have been turned into plays and films and translated into more than 25 languages, including Catalan, Hindi and Japanese.

The mother of one is a known animal-lover with a keen interest in astrology and psychoanalyst Carl Jung.

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First Published: May 23, 2018 08:40 IST