10 October 2019 will go down in the history of Polish literature. Olga Tokarczuk received one of the two Nobel Prizes in Literature awarded today by the Swedish Academy in Stockholm.
Olga Tokarczuk has long been listed among the candidates for the Nobel Foundation prize, alongside writers such as Margaret Atwood, Maryse Condé and Haruki Murakami. Her strong international standing was confirmed by the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for Flights, translated by Jennifer Croft) and her nomination to the finals of the British award in 2019 – this time for Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones). The writer’s popularity was also reflected in her nominations for one of the most important American literary awards, the National Book Award. After being recognised twice by the award jury for her Flights and Drive Your Plow…, Tokarczuk’s prose began to intensely resonate in the collective consciousness of readers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Today, on 10 October at 1:00 p.m. at Stockholm’s Börshuset in the Old Town, Olga Tokarczuk received probably the most prestigious prize awarded to writers – the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Polish writer was awarded for her “narrative imagination that with encyclopaedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life”. The Polish writer won the 2018 Prize.
This is great news for Polish readers, and Krakow has even more reasons to celebrate, said Urszula Chwalba, Head of the Literary Department of the Krakow Festival Office, operator of the Krakow UNESCO City of Literature. Olga Tokarczuk has been a friend of the Conrad Festival since its first editions. During each of the meetings with the writer, the festival halls were bursting at the seams. In 2018, she took part in an extraordinary musical project: the Sacrum Profanum Festival in Krakow hosted the premiere of the opera “Ahat ili. Sister of the Gods” with libretto by the writer, based on her novel “Anna In in the Tombs of the World”.
Olga Tokarczuk is a writer, essayist, screenwriter, poet and psychologist. Her most important novels include The Journey of the Book-People (1993), Primeval and Other Times (1996), House of Day, House of Night (1998), Flights (2007), Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead (2009) and The Books of Jacob (2014). Her latest release is the collection of Bizarre Stories (2018). She is also a laureate of the Kościelski Award (1997), Paszport Polityki Award (1997) and the Vilenica – Slovenian International Literary Prize (2013). She has been nominated five times for the Nike Literary Award, which she received twice: in 2008 for her novel Flights, and in 2015 for The Books of Jacob. Her House of Day, House of Night was awarded the prestigious Brücke Berlin-Preis Prize (2002). Her books have been translated into many languages including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, Russian, Czech, Ukrainian, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese and Hindi. In 2016, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead was adapted into Spoor, with a script by the writer, based on the book, and directed by Agnieszka Holland. The film won the Silver Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2017.
This is the fifth Nobel Prize in Literature in the hands of a Polish author. Previous winners included Henryk Sienkiewicz (1905), Władysław Reymont (1924), Czesław Miłosz (1980) and Wisława Szymborska (1996).
The 2019 award went to Peter Handke for his influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.