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Olga Tokarczuk

Author Reading and Discussion

Nike Award-Winning Author of Księgi Jakubowe / The Books of Jacob

Sunday April 10th, 5.30 PM
Lewis Tower, 16th Floor
Loyola University Chicago, Water Tower Campus
820 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL
Admission: Free & Open to the Public

Olga Tokarczuk is a writer and essayist, born in Sulechów in 1962. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012. Tokarczuk is one of the most critically acclaimed and most translated Polish writers, with House of Day, House of Night and Primeval and Other Talesbeing her greatest commercial and critical successes. She studied psychology at the University of Warsaw and lives in Wrocław. Undeniably a great discovery in Polish literature in the nineties, she is admired by both critics and readers. She is a phenomenon of popularity respected for her good taste, knowledge, literary talent, philosophical depth and the knack for storytelling. In 2016 the script she wrote based on her novel Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead  will be filmed by Agnieszka Holland.

Tokarczuk has won many awards, including the Polish Publishers’ Association and Kościelski Awards, the readers’ choice of the Nike Award five times and was the laureate of the Nike Literary Award twice (2008 for Bieguni /Runners and 2014 for Księgi Jakubowe / Books of Jacob). In 2004 she was nominated for Impac Dublin Literary Award for House of Day, House of Night. In 2002 Tokarczuk and her German translator Esther Kinsky received the Brücke-Berlin prize for literature in translation for the 1998 novel titled House of Day House of Night. The prize recognizes significant contemporary literary works from Central and Eastern Europe and their translations into German. Her short story “The Ugliest Woman in the World” was included in the Best European Fiction 2011 anthology, an annual anthology of stories from across Europe, published by Dalkey Archive Press. The haunting story is about a man who marries and has kids with an unbecoming woman. She is also recipient of the prestigious Usedomer Literaturpreis 2012 for her literary output. The jury of the award honoured her especially for the literary and intellectual restitution of Lower Silesia in the European historical experience and in the Polish language.

In 2014a long-awaited, and written over the period of six years  The Books of Jacob was published by Wydawnictwo Literackie. It is not merely a novel about the past. It can be read as a reflective and sometimes mystical text concerning history, its twists and turns that determine the fortunes of entire nations. Almost a thousand pages, several dozen threads and characters  The Books of Jacob is an epically impressive novel, multifaceted and open to a wide range of interpretations. The story is set in 1752, the region of Podolia (part of Lesser Poland Province of the Polish Crown and revolves around a Jew named Jacob Leibowitz Frank. The mysterious newcomer from remote Smyrna begins to preach ideas that quickly introduce discord into the Jewish community. Considered a heretic by some and a savior by others, he is soon surrounded by a circle of devoted disciples, and the unrest he induced may change the course of history.

Olga Tokarczuk draws extensively on the tradition of historical novel, broadening the scope of this genre. She depicts the epoch with meticulous care, including architecture, costumes, scents. We visit estate manors, Catholic presbyteries and Jewish homes, engrossed in prayer and mysterious scriptures. Before the readers’ very eyes, the writer weaves an image of Poland in its former days, when Christianity, Judaism, as well as Islam, co-existed side by side.

Source: Paweł Kozioł, December 2008, updated by GS/AB/AJ, February 2016,

More about the book:

Author’s Official Website (in Polish)