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Olga Tokarczuk Facts and Nobel Prize Conspiracy

Quick Facts

Awards:

  • Olga Tokarczuk was awarded the 2015 Brückepreis
  • Olga Tokarczuk is the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2018
  • In 2018, Olga Tokarczuk won the Man Booker International Prize for her novel Flights
  • 2018 Nobel Prize in 2019: Olga Tokarczuk was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature in 2019 for her “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life”. The 2018 award had been postponed due to controversy within the Nobel committee

Born: 1962, Sulechów, Poland 

Residence: Wroclaw, Poland

Best books Olga Tokarczuk to read: Flights( 2007), The Books of Jacob (2014), Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (2009), Primeval and Other Times (1996), Dom dzienny, dom nocny (1998)

Who is Olga Tokarczuk? 

Olga Tokarczuk is a Nobel Prize winning activist, public intellectual, and critic of Poland’s politics, won the 2018 award, and was cited by the committee for her “narrative imagination that with an encyclopedic passion that represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life”. Olga became a bestseller in Poland and grew in popularity much better known in the UK since winning the 2018 Booker international prize for her sixth novel, Flights. Anders Olsson from the Nobel committee’s said her work, which “centers on migration and cultural transitions”, was “full of wit and cunning”.

Olga Tokarczuk is particularly noted for the mythical tone of her writing. Trained as a psychologist at the University of Warsaw, Olga went on to published a collection of poems, several novels, as well as other books with shorter prose works. Her book Flights won the Nike Award, Poland’s top literary prize, in 2008. Olga Tokarczuk attended the 2010 Edinburgh Book Festival to discuss her book Primeval and Other Times and other work. With her novel The Books of Jacob, Olga Tokarczuk won the Nike Award again in 2015. The German-Polish International Bridge Prize in 2015 was awarded to Olga Tokarczuk as a recognition received to extended to persons especially accomplished in the promotion of peace, democratic development and mutual understanding among the people and nations of Europe.

Why was Olga Tokarczuk awarded her 2018 Nobel Prize in 2019? 

In April 2018, three members of the academy board resigned in response to a sexual-misconduct investigation involving author Jean-Claude Arnault, who is married to the academy board member Katarina Frostenson. Arnault was accused by at least 18 women of sexual assault and harassment. He and his wife were also accused of leaking the names of prize recipients on at least seven occasions so friends could profit from bets. He denied all accusations, although he would later be convicted of rape and sentenced to two years and six months in prison. 

In April 2018, the three members of the academy board left to protest over the decision by Sara Danius, the board secretary, not to take what they felt was appropriate legal action against Jean-Claude Arnault. Two former permanent secretaries, Sture Allén and Horace Engdahl, called Danius a weak leader. On 10 April, Sara Danius was asked to resign from her position by the Academy, bringing the number of empty seats to four. Although the Academy voted against removing Katarina Frostenson from the committee, she voluntarily agreed to withdraw from participating in the academy, bringing the total of withdrawals to five. Because two other seats were still vacant from the Rushdie affair, this left only 11 active members, one short of the quorum needed to vote in replacements. 

On 4 May 2018, the Swedish Academy stated the selection would be delayed until 2019 when two laureates would be chosen. 

On March 5, 2019, it was announced that the Nobel Prize in Literature and laureates for both years of 2018 and 2019 would be announced together. The decision came after several changes were made to the structure of the Swedish Academy as well as to the Nobel Committee members selection, to “[restore] trust in the Academy as a prize-awarding institution”.

For Which book did Olga tokarczuk win the 2018 Man Booker International Prize?

Olga Tokarczuk became the first Polish writer to win the Man Booker International Prize in 2018. Olga Tokarczuk took the £50,000 prize for her novel Flights. She will split the prize money with translator Jennifer Croft.

In 2014, the same translator Jennifer Croft helped Olga Tokarczuk publish an epic novel Księgi Jakubowe (“The Books of Jacob”). The book earned her another Nike Award. Its historical setting is 18th century Poland and eastern-central Europe and it deals with an important episode in Jewish history. Regarding the historical and ideological divides of Polish literature, the book has been characterized as anti-Sienkiewicz. It was soon acclaimed by critics and readers alike, but its reception has been hostile in some Polish nationalistic circles and Olga Tokarczuk became a target of internet hate and harassment campaign.

Who wrote the book flight?

Olga Tokarczuk wrote the book Flights. Flights 2007 won the Nike Award, Poland’s top literary prize, in 2008. In 2018, she won the Man Booker International Prize for her novel Flights (translated by Jennifer Croft), becoming the first Polish writer to do so. 

Quotes

“There are countries out there where people speak English. But not like us – we have our own languages hidden in our carry-on luggage, in our cosmetics bags, only ever using English when we travel, and then only in foreign countries, to foreign people. It’s hard to imagine, but English is the real language! Oftentimes their only language. They don’t have anything to fall back on or to turn to in moments of doubt. How lost they must feel in the world, where all instructions, all the lyrics of all the stupidest possible songs, all the menus, all the excruciating pamphlets and brochures – even the buttons in the lift! – are in their private language. They may be understood by anyone at any moment, whenever they open their mouths. They must have to write things down in special codes. Wherever they are, people have unlimited access to them – they are accessible to everyone and everything! I heard there are plans in the works to get them some little language of their own, one of those dead ones no one else is using anyway, just so that for once they can have something just for them.” 

Olga Tokarczuk, Flights

“Speaking does harm, sows confusion and weakens things that are obvious. Speaking makes me tremble inside. I don’t think I have ever said anything really important in my entire life — there’s a lack of words for the most important things anyway. (I must make a list of missing words — top of it I’ll put a verb that means something in between “I sense” and “I see.”)”

― Olga Tokarczuk, House of Day, House of Night

“When you’re traveling you need to take care of yourself to get by, you have to keep an eye on yourself and your place in the world. It means concentrating on yourself, thinking about yourself and looking after yourself. So when you travel all you really encounter is yourself, as if that were the whole point of it. When you’re at home you simply are, you don’t have to struggle with anything or achieve anything. You don’t have to worry about the railways connections, and timetables, you don’t need to experience any thrills or disappointments. You can put yourself to one side – and that’s when you see the most.”
Olga Tokarczuk

Media Attention

“Every passenger carrying a book or ebook by Olga Tokarczuk can ride public transit free in our city,” Wroclaw city officials stated.

“As soon as we heard that Olga won the Nobel” they proudly said” we wanted to share our joy with all the residents of our city, which recently made the writer an honorary citizen,” stated a city hall spokesman, Przemysław Gałecki. The writer said that Wrocław was “one of the most beautiful and important cities of Europe”.

Nobel Prize Sex Scandal and Conspiracy

In April 2018, three members of the academy board resigned in response to a sexual-misconduct investigation involving author Jean-Claude Arnault, who is married to the academy board member Katarina Frostenson. Arnault was accused by at least 18 women of sexual assault and harassment. He and his wife were also accused of leaking the names of prize recipients on at least seven occasions so friends could profit from bets. He denied all accusations, although he would later be convicted of rape and sentenced to two years and six months in prison. 

In April 2018, the three members of the academy board resigned to protest over the decision by Sara Danius, the board secretary, not to take what they felt was appropriate legal action against Jean-Claude Arnault. Two former permanent secretaries, Sture Allén and Horace Engdahl, called Danius a weak leader. On 10 April, Sara Danius was asked to resign from her position by the Academy, bringing the number of empty seats to four. Although the Academy voted against removing Katarina Frostenson from the committee, she voluntarily agreed to withdraw from participating in the academy, bringing the total of withdrawals to five. Because two other seats were still vacant from the Rushdie affair, this left only 11 active members, one short of the quorum needed to vote in replacements. 

On 4 May 2018, the Swedish Academy stated the selection would be delayed until 2019 when two laureates would be chosen. It was still technically possible to choose a 2018 laureate, as only eight active members are required to choose a recipient. However, there were concerns that the academy was not in any condition to credibly present the award.

The scandal was widely seen as damaging to the credibility of the prize and its authority. “With this scandal, you cannot possibly say that this group of people has any kind of solid judgment,” said Swedish journalist Björn Wiman. As noted by Andrew Brown in The Guardian in a lengthy deconstruction of the scandal:

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden said a reform of the rules may be evaluated, including the introduction of the right to resign in respect of the current lifelong membership of the committee. On March 5th 2019, the Nobel Prize in Literature would once again be awarded, and laureates for both 2018 and 2019 would be announced together. The decision came after several changes were made to the structure of the Swedish Academy as well as to the Nobel Committee members selection, to “[restore] trust in the Academy as a prize-awarding institution”.

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