Polish writer, activist and public intellectual. Awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”
She was born on 29 January 1962 in Sulechów near Zielona Góra in the family of teachers. Her father worked also in school library where little Olga developed her literary appetite. Before starting artistic career, she trained as a psychologist at the University of Warsaw. After studies she moved to Wrocław and later to Wałbrzych, where she began her therapist career. Since 1998, Tokarczuk has lived in a small village Krajanów near Nowa Ruda.
She published her first novel “The Journey of the Book-People” (Podróż ludzi księgi) in 1993. The book was well received in Poland and awarded the Polish Publisher’s Prize for the best debut. A real successs came with her third novel “Primeval and Other Times” (Prawiek i inne czasy) published in 1996. The family saga is set in a mythical village Prawiek at the very heart of Poland, guarded by four archangels. It was translated into many languages and Tokarczuk has gained an international fame. “House of Day, House of Night” (Dom dzienny, dom nocny) from 1998 is rather a blend of stories and images, depicted a region created by many cultures, individual fates and perspectives. Inspired by maps and a perspective from above, she wrote “Flights” (Bieguni) in 2007 . For this novel in 2018 she became the first Polish writer to win the Man Booker International Prize.
In 2009 the novel “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” was published. It is written in the convention of a detective story with the main character telling the story from her point of view. The novel became the basis of the crime film “Spoor” directed by Agnieszka Holland. “Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of The Dead” is now on the shortlist for 2019 Man Booker International Prize.
The magnum opus of Tokarczuk is the impressive historical novel ”The Books of Jacob” (Księgi Jakubowe) from 2014 which tells the story of Jakub Frank, a Jewish-born religious leader who led conversion of fellow Jews to Catholicism in the 18th century.
Nowadays Olga Tokarczuk is described as one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful Polish authors. She has won many awards, including the Polish Publishers’ Association and Kościelski Awards, the readers’ choice Nike Award four times and was many times nominated for the Nike Literary Award. In 2019, “The Books of Jacob” translated by Maryla Laurent won Prix Laure Bataillon Award for the best foreign-language book translated into French in the last year.
In 2019, awarded for the year 2018, Olga Tokarczuk joined Polish Nobel Prize Winners: Henryk Sienkiewicz, Władysław Reymont, Isaac Bashevis Singer Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska.
Photo: Maciej Kulczycki PAP