Poland wins Man Booker prize for first time

PAP/Jacek Bednarczyk

Polish author Olga Tokarczuk was last night awarded the Man Booker International prize for the best work of translated fiction for her novel ‘Flights’.

The award, one of the most internationally prestigious, comes with a 245,000zł (57,000 Euro) prize that Tokarczuk will share with her translator, Jennifer Croft.

‘Flights’ was chosen out of more than 100 novels submitted to the 2018 award, including South Korea’s Han Kang and Hungary’s László Krasznahorkai, which committee spokesman  Lisa Appiganesi said made for a difficult choice.

But Tokarczuk was “a writer of wonderful wit, imagination and literary panache” who has “ written a great many books that sound amazing, but which haven’t been translated yet,” said Appiganesi.

Tokarczuk has long been lauded as an outstanding Polish writer, but mainly in her home country. 'Flights' won the Polish ‘Booker’ – the Nike Award – in 2008 and another book ‘The Books of Jacob’ in 2015.

Appiganesi argued that the Man Booker International prize had an ‘interventionist quality – it allows writers to be better known in Britain, and in the English language, than they have been previously.’

The book, a considered meditation on movement in the modern world, is the first Polish book to win the prize.

Writing about “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.”

Tokarczuk and Croft were presented with their awards on Tuesday night at a ceremony in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.