Olga Tokarczuk, a 56-year-old bestselling author from Poland, has won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for her novel Flights, which deals with travels in the 21st century and human anatomy.
A counterpart to the prestigious Man Booker Prize, the 50,000 British Pounds award goes to the best work of translated fiction from around the world and is split equally between the writer and the translator.
Flights has been translated by Jennifer Croft and is published by Fitzcarraldo Editions, a tiny independent press. Tokarczuk and Croft were presented the award at a ceremony in Victoria and Albert Museum in London on late Tuesday night.
The entries for this year’s award received 108 submissions and Tokarczuk’s work was contending against two previous winners — South Korea’s Han Kang and Hungary’s Laszlo Krasznahorkai. The shortlist also featured Spanish author Antonio Munoz Molina, Iraq’s Ahmed Saadawi and France’s Virginie Despentes.
Tokarczuk is “a writer of wonderful wit, imagination and literary panache” who “has written a great many books that sound amazing, but which haven’t been translated yet,” commented Appignanesi. Flights is Tokarczuk’s third work to be translated into English and she has become the first writer from Poland to be awarded the prize.
“We loved the voice of the narrative — it’s one that moves from wit and gleeful mischief to real emotional texture and has the ability to create character very quickly, with interesting digression and speculation,” said Appignanesi, herself a noted British writer, novelist, and campaigner for free expression. She also praised the novel’s translation by Croft, who translates from Polish, Spanish and Ukrainian and holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Iowa.
Poet and translator Michael Hofmann; novelists Hari Kunzru and Helen Oyeyemi and journalist Tim Martin, along with Appignanesi completed the judging panel.
A well-known author in Poland, Tokarczuk is a recipient of numerous awards in her home country. She trained as a psychologist at the University of Warsaw. She has authored eight novels and two short-story collections.