OLGA TOKARCZUK (b. 1962)
“Tokarczuk is one of the most critically acclaimed and most translated Polish writers, with House of Day, House of Night and Primeval and Other Tales being her greatest commercial and critical successes. She studied psychology at the University of Warsaw and lives in Wałbrzych. An outstanding writer, essayist and a devotee of Jung, she is an authority on philosophy and arcane knowledge. 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. Tokarczuk, about herself, ‘To me writing novels is telling fairy tales to oneself, moved to maturity’.”- Culture.pl
House of Day, House of Night, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Northwestern University Press, 2003).
“Nowa Ruda is a small town in Silesia, an area that has been a part of Poland, Germany, and the former Czechoslovakia in the past. When the narrator moves into the area, she discovers everyone–and everything–has a story. With the help of Marta, her enigmatic neighbor, the narrator accumulates these stories, tracing the history of Nowa Ruda from the its founding to the lives of its saints, from the caller who wins the radio quiz every day to the man who causes international tension when he dies straddling the border between Poland and Czechoslovakia.
Each of the stories represents a brick and they interlock to reveal the immense monument that is the town. What emerges is the message that the history of any place–no matter how humble–is limitless, that by describing or digging at the roots of a life, a house, or a neighborhood, one can see all the connections, not only with one’s self and one’s dreams but also with all of the universe.”
Primeval and Other Times, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Twisted Spoon Press, 2010).
“Set in the mythical Polish village of Primeval, a microcosm of the world guarded by four archangels and populated by eccentric, archetypal characters, the novel chronicles the lives of the inhabitants over the course of the feral 20th century in prose that is forceful, direct, and the stylistic cousin of the magic realism in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Told in short bursts of “Time,” the narrative takes the form of a stylized fable, an epic allegory about the inexorable grind of time and the clash between modernity and nature in which Poland’s tortured political history from 1914 to the 1980s is played out amid the episodic brutality visited on ordinary village life. Yet Primeval and Other Times is a novel of universal dimension that does not dwell on the parochial and it established eventual Nobel Laureate Tokarczuk as one of the leading Polish and European writers.”
“All Saints’ Mountain,” translated by Jennifer Croft (Hazlitt, 2019).