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Monday, 8 August 2016

Olga Tokarczuk - Women In Translation

As regular visitors to this blog would know, I have supported and been involved in “Women In Translation Month”, since its establishment three years ago. An absolutely brilliant initiative started  by Meytal Radzinski (or @Biblibio or Twitter) and you can read a whole lot more about it at her blog, this year’s details at the 2016 Women In Translation Month page here.

Last year I had a look at a number of women writers who are celebrated in their home Nations but their works are yet to make their way into English, I ran a number of occasional posts titled “Women (Not) In Translation”. This year I may highlight a few of these again, however my occasional posts, whilst I am finishing up a novel written by a woman, or putting the finishing touches on a new review, are going to lean towards highlighting a few works that are available on the internet.

When spreading your wings and trying new books by writers you have not read before can sometimes be a disaster waiting to happen, while your searches of favourite blogs or reviewers may point you towards something that appears interesting, there is always the risk that the style of writing is just not your thing. Something that may assist is reading a short story or two by the writer in question before investing your money and effort in a full blown novel.

One writer I have really enjoyed reading about as well as reading her works Olga Tokarczuk from Poland. Her novel “Primeval and Other Times” (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones) I reviewed in December last year soon after she won the Polish Nike Prize for her latest book “The Books of Jakub”.

Tokarczuk was born in Sulechów Poland in 1962, a recipient of all of Poland’s top literary awards, she “is one of the most critically acclaimed authors of her generation”. Holding a psychology degree from the University of Warsaw, she initially practiced as a therapist and “often cites C.G. Jung as an inspiration for her work, in which mythmaking has become a hallmark.” (Quotes from Twisted Spoon Press website, publisher of “Primeval and Other Times”).

Whilst generally a literary award from Poland wouldn’t generate headlines, the 2015 Nike Prize did as Tokarczuk soon afterwards began receiving death threats and was subjected to abuse, after she questioned Poland’s “record on tolerance”. (See The Scotsman)

“The Books of Jakub” runs to over 900 pages, is “a great journey through seven borders, five languages and three major religions, not counting the small ones”, and is currently being translated into English, however my current understanding is that there is still no English language publisher. I am eagerly awaiting news of a publisher as I will probably be one of the first readers in the queue to purchase a copy once it is released.

If you are interested in an excerpt from the novel, translated as “The Books of Jacob” by Jennifer Croft, eight pages were published by the Massachusetts Review and are available here 

Bomb Magazine has published an excerpt from Olga Tokarczuk’s 2008 Nike Award winning book  “Runners”(again translated by Jennifer Croft) here 

In June this year Bomb Magazine also published another Jennifer Croft translation of Olga Tokarczuk’s, the short story “Late Saturday to Early Sunday” 

Interviews, translated into English, with Tokarczuk can be found here:

A few tastes of her work for you to check out in case you’re interested in exploring her work further. Two of her novels are available in English, both translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, “Primeval and Other Times” (published by Twisted Spoon Press) and “House of Day, House of Night” (published by Northwestern University Press as part of their “Writings from an Unbound Europe” collection).

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