Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk bags Man Booker International Prize

London, May 23 (IANS) A novel about travel in the 21st century and human anatomy titled “Flights” by Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk has been awarded the Man Booker International Prize for 2018.

A counterpart to the prestigious Man Booker Prize, the 50,000 British Pounds award goes to the best work of translated fiction from anywhere in the world and is split between the writer and the translator.

“Flights” has been translated by Jennifer Croft and is published by Fitzcarraldo Editions, a tiny independent press. Tokarczuk and Croft were presented the award at a ceremony in Victoria and Albert Museum here on Tuesday night.

The entries for this year’s award received more than a hundred submissions and Tokarczuk’s work was contending against two previous winners — South Korea’s Han Kang and Hungary’s Laszlo Krasznahorkai.

The shortlist also featured Spanish author Antonio Munoz Molina, Iraq’s Ahmed Saadawi and France’s Virginie Despentes and chair of judges Lisa Appignanesi shared that the merit of other shortlisted novels made the selection process all the more hard.

Tokarczuk is “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,” commented Appignanesi.

“We loved the voice of the narrative — it’s one that moves from wit and gleeful mischief to real emotional texture and has the ability to create character very quickly, with interesting digression and speculation,” said Appignanesi.

She also praised the novel’s translation by Croft, an American who translates from Polish, Spanish and Ukrainian.

Emphasising on the significance of the Man Booker International Prize, Appignanesi said that the judges really felt that “this is a prize that has an interventionist quality — it allows writers to be better known in Britain, and in the English language, than they have been previously.”

Poet and translator Michael Hofmann; novelists Hari Kunzru and Helen Oyeyemi and journalist Tim Martin, along with Appignanesi completed the judging panel.

A bestselling author in Poland, the 56-year-old Tokarczuk is a recipient of numerous awards in her home country. She trained as a psychologist at the University of Warsaw. She has authored eight novels and two short-story collections.

“Flights” is Tokarczuk’s third work to be translated into English and she has become the first writer from Poland to be awarded the prize.

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