“Tenderness is the art of personifying, of sharing feelings and therefore of discovering endless similarities,” said Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk during her 2018 Nobel Prize speech. The title of the conference, ” The Tender Narrator ”, elegantly describes Tokarczuk’s unique narrative style: rather as a Therapist, his approach to writing is marked by love, gentleness and a genuine curiosity for the life and motivations of his characters.
Born in Sulechów, Poland, in 1962, she first worked as a clinical psychologist before starting to write – first poetry, then novels which earned her international recognition. Tokarczuk’s first collection of poems was published in 1989 and her first novel in 1993. Since then she has received critical acclaim around the world, winning Poland’s Nike Prize, the Brückepreis for Promoting Understanding mutual agreement between European nations and the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature “for a narrative imagination which, with an encyclopedic passion, represents the crossing of borders as a form of life”. Borders and border crossings – both physical and psychological – remain vital elements in her work. His home in Krajanów, in a multilingual and multicultural region near the Polish-Czech border, serves as the backdrop and inspiration for several novels. In a 2018 interview with Calvert’s Journal, she noted that the “mythology of moving borders” is deeply rooted in her family: without ever moving, her grandmother acquired three different nationalities: Austro-Hungarian, Soviet and Polish.
His interest in border regions and their linguistic, cultural and religious ambiguity means that Tokarczuk is not universally popular in his home country, as he faces a strong wave of conservatism. His writings often draw on the diversity of Polish history – a diversity that “official” history either neglects or denies. A senator from the ruling Law & Justice party claimed that Tokarczuk’s work was “in absolute contradiction to the assumptions of historical Polish politics”. One need only look at the backlash against Tokarczuk – a prominent feminist, church critic, and climate justice advocate – to know that literature is a huge political force. As mystical, whimsical and wild as they are, Tokarczuk’s fantasies have a knack for bringing out what is already present in the real world. “In a sea of many definitions of fiction,” she says, “the one I love the most is also the oldest, and it comes from Aristotle. “Fiction is always a kind of truth. “
Start with Tokarczuk? Start with Flights – a marvel of images and ideas – and progresses to his magnum opus, Jacob’s books.