Olga Tokarczuk of Poland Wins Man Booker International Prize

Olga Tokarczuk of Poland Wins Man Booker International Prize

LONDON — “Flights,” a philosophical rumination on modern-day travel by the Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, won the Man Booker International Prize for works of translated fiction on Tuesday night.

Ms. Tokarczuk shared the prize of 50,000 British pounds, around $67,000, with the book’s English-language translator, Jennifer Croft.

The Man Booker International Prize is awarded by the same organization that gives the Man Booker Prize for fiction. It is for a single work of fiction that has been translated into English and published in the United Kingdom in the last year.

Ms. Tokarczuk, 56, was born in Poland. In 2008 she won the Nike Award, Poland’s highest literary accolade, for “Flights.”

Ms. Tokarczuk won the award again in 2015 for “The Books of Jacob,” a novel about the 18th-century Polish-Jewish religious leader Jacob Frank. In a TV interview at the time, Ms. Tokarczuk said that Poland liked to think of itself as an “open, tolerant country” but would not acknowledge its poor historical treatment of Jews and other minority groups. Ms. Tokarczuk’s statement drew ire from nationalist critics and she received death threats.

In a review of “Flights” in The Guardian, the author and poet Kapka Kassabova said, “It is a novel of intuitions as much as ideas, a cacophony of voices and stories seemingly unconnected across time and space, which meander between the profound and the facetious, the mysterious and the ordinary, and whose true register remains one of glorious ambiguity.” The book had echoes of the writers W.G. Sebald and Milan Kundera, she added, but Ms. Tokarczuk “inhabits a rebellious, playful register very much her own.”

Other books on the shortlist for this year’s prize included the French author Virginie Despentes’s “Vernon Subutex 1”; the South Korean author Han Kang’s “The White Book”; the Hungarian author Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s “The World Goes On”; the Spanish author Antonio Muñoz Molina’s “Like a Fading Shadow”; and the Iraqi author Ahmed Saadawi’s “Frankenstein in Baghdad.”

Last year’s prize was awarded to the Israeli author David Grossman for his novel “A Horse Walks Into a Bar,” translated by Jessica Cohen.

“Tokarczuk is a writer of wonderful wit, imagination and literary panache,” Lisa Appignanesi, who led the judging panel, said in a statement. In “Flights,” she added, Ms. Tokarczuk “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.”

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