Flights by Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk wins 2018 Man Booker International Prize

The £50,000 ($89,765.00 Cdn) prize, which is divided equally between the author and translator, honours the best work of fiction translated into English from around the world.
Olga Tokarczuk, left, stands with translator Jennifer Croft after winning the Man Booker International Prize. (The Associated Press, Matt Crossick)

Flights by Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk and translated by Jennifer Croft has won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize. 

The £50,000 ($89,765.00 Cdn) prize, which is divided equally between the author and translator, honours the best work of fiction translated into English from around the world.

A novel told in fragments, Flights is a series of imaginative stories such as one about a Dutch antaomist who dissects his amputated leg and a Polish woman who returns home to poison her childhood sweetheart. The book is tied together by a single narrator and the themes of home, travel and the human body.

Tokarczuk is one of Poland's most popular and successful authors. She has won the Nike Literary Award, Polish's most prestigious literary prize, twice, in 2008 and 2015. 

"Tokarczuk is a writer of wonderful wit, imagination and literary panache. In Flights, brilliantly translated by Jennifer Croft, by a series of startling juxtapositions she flies us through a galaxy of departures and arrivals, stories and digressions, all the while exploring matters close to the contemporary and human predicament — where only plastic escapes mortality," jury chair Lisa Appignanesi said in a statement.

No Canadian books were on the shortlist this year. The Stolen Bicycle by Taiwanese author Wu Ming-Yi and translated by Canadian Darryl Sterk was on the longlist.

The other finalists were:

  • Vernon Subutex 1 by France's Virginie Despentes, translated by Frank Wynne
  • The White Book by South Korea's Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith
  • The World Goes On by Hungary's László Krasznahorkai, translated by John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet & George Szirtes​
  • Like a Fading Shadow by Spain's Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated by Camilo A. Ramirez
  • Frankenstein in Baghdad by Iraq's Ahmed Saadawi, translated by Jonathan Wright

This year's jury panel included jury chair Appignanesi, alongside Michael Hofmann, Hari Kunzru and Helen Oyeyemi.

Last year's winner was A Horse Walks Into a Bar by Israeli author David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen. In 2016, the winner was The Vegetarian by Han Kang and translated by Deborah Smith.

Prior to 2016, the Man Booker International Prize was awarded to an author for their body of work.

Flights will be available in Canada in August 2018.


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