- Krzysztof Dubiel for the Polish Book Institute
Olga Tokarczuk is adored by her readers and lauded by critics and literature scholars; she is the author of nine novels and several collections of short stories and essays, has won many awards, and is the mostly widely translated Polish female writer. Her books have been translated into twenty-nine languages, including Chinese, Estonian, and Japanese, and translations of her latest novels are soon to be appearing in Fitzcarraldo Editions.
Born in 1962, Olga Tokarczuk first gained popularity with her books set in the Kłodzko Valley, where she lived in a small village for many years. These seemingly modest books discussed themes around settling down and making roots in a new place. The complicated history of those lands straddled by Poland, Czechia, and Germany inspired Tokarczuk’s imagination and made her writing evolve towards mythological tales, allowing her to capture something of the strangeness of existence. Tokarczuk also enjoys finding a space between epochs and literary genres, testing and transgressing their rules and boundaries. This explains her splendid reinterpretation of the Sumerian myth of the goddess Immam (Anna In in the Tombs of the World), which sits alongside multi-layered contemporary novels (Day House, Night House or Flights); a pastiche environmental detective novel, which borrows its title from William Blake (Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead); and a monumental work telling the tale of a false Messiah in the eighteenth century (The Books of Jacob).