Poland’s Olga Tokarczuk wins Man Booker International Prize

Novelist won prestigious award with 'Flights', a novel that charts journeys in time, space and human anatomy

Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, left, stands with translator Jennifer Croft after winning the Man Booker International prize 2018, for her book Flights, at the Victoria and Albert Museum Tuesday, May 22, 2018 in London. (Matt Crossick//PA via AP)
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Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for fiction on Tuesday with Flights, a novel that charts multiple journeys in time, space and human anatomy.

Flights beat five other finalists, including Iraqi writer Ahmed Saadawi's horror story Frankenstein in Baghdad and South Korean author Han Kang's meditative novel The White Book.

Ms Tokarczuk’s novel combines tales of modern-day travel with the story of a 17th century anatomist who dissected his own amputated leg and the journey of composer Frederic Chopin’s heart from Paris to Warsaw after his death.

The judging panel led by writer Lisa Appignanesi called the book a witty and playful novel in which “the contemporary condition of perpetual movement” meets the certainty of death.

Ms Tokarczuk is one of Poland’s best-known authors. She has been attacked by Polish conservatives - and received death threats - for criticising aspects of the country’s past, including its historic episodes of anti-Semitism.

The prize is a counterpart to the Man Booker Prize for English-language novels and is open to books in any language that have been translated into English.

The £50,000 (Dh244,700) award is split evenly between the writer and her translator, Jennifer Croft.

Mr Saadawi’s book, which won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2014, was part of a shortlist commended by Ms Appignanesi as “such a strong one”. Mr Saadawi portrays Iraq as it existed after the war up until the present day, mired in conflict and dealing with the consequences of a foreign invasion, but the fantasy of a Frankenstein creature built from the remains of those who have been killed in the conflict allows the reader to see the reality of the war more clearly.