Polish author wins Booker International Prize

Olga Tokarczuk

The Man Booker International Prize, a parallel to the traditional Man Booker Prize, started in 2005 as an award for the combined works of foreign-language authors. Still, the 56-year-old author counts among Poland's top writers.

Ms. Tokarczuk's novel combines tales of modern-day travel with the story of a 17th century anatomist who dissected his own amputated leg and the journey of composer Frederic Chopin's heart from Paris to Warsaw after his death. She is the author of eight novels and two short-story collections. "[It] moves from wit and gleeful mischief to real emotional texture". "We loved the voice of the narrative", said head judge Lisa Appignanesi.

Literary critics in Poland said the prize opens the doors for Tokarczuk's works into the vast English-language literary world, and that some of her other novels are being translated into English. "These journeys and fragments, in Jennifer Croft's deft translation, accumulate into an enchanting meditation on metamorphosis and connection".

Tokarczuk, who is a huge literary name in her native Poland was described by The Bookseller a year ago (17) as "probably one of the greatest living writers you have never heard of". A film adaptation of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead - titled Pokot (Spoor) - was denounced by a Polish news agency as "a deeply anti-Christian [work] that promoted eco-terrorism".

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After receiving threats, her publishers provided her with a security detail for a week. "I was very naive".

Appignanesi was joined on the judging panel by poet and translator Michael Hofmann, the novelists Hari Kunzru and Helen Oyeyemi and journalist Tim Martin.

The Man Booker International prize delivers a reliable increase in sales for the winning book.


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