Author(s): Olga Tokarczuk; Jennifer Croft (Translator)
A visionary work of fiction by "A writer on the level of W. G. Sebald" (Annie Proulx)
"A magnificent writer." --Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel Prize-winning author of Secondhand Time
"A beautifully fragmented look at man's longing for permanence.... Ambitious and complex." --Washington Post
From the incomparably original Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, Flights interweaves reflections on travel with an in-depth exploration of the human body, broaching life, death, motion, and migration.
Chopin's heart is carried back to Warsaw in secret by his adoring sister. A woman must return to her native Poland in order to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart, and a young man slowly descends into madness when his wife and child mysteriously vanish during a vacation and just as suddenly reappear.
Through these brilliantly imagined characters and stories, interwoven with haunting, playful, and revelatory meditations, Flights explores what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion not only through space but through time. Where are you from? Where are you coming in from? Where are you going? we call to the traveler. Enchanting, unsettling, and wholly original, Flights is a master storyteller's answer.
When something is at rest it is only conceptually differentiated from the physical continuum of its location, but when moving its differentiation is confirmed by the changes in its relations with the actual. Likewise, humans have in them a restlessness, a will to change, a fluidity of identity and belonging that Olga Tokarczuk in her fine and interesting book Flights would see as our essential vitality, an indicator of civilisation so far as it is acknowledged and encouraged, otherwise a casualty of repression or of fear. “Barbarians stay put, or go to destinations to raid them. They do not travel.” Flights is an encyclopedic sort-of-novel, a great compendium of stories, fragments, historical anecdotes, description and essays on every possible aspect of travel, in its literal and metaphorical senses, and on the stagnation, mummification and bodily degradation of stasis. The book bristles with ideas, memorable images and playful treatments, for instance when Tokarczuk reframes the world as an array of airports, to which cities and countries are but service satellites and through which the world’s population is constantly streaming, democratised by movement, no preparation either right or wrong in this zone of civilised indeterminacy. To create a border, to restrict a movement is to suppress life, to preserve a corpse. Tokarczuk’s fragments are of various registers and head in different directions, but several strands reappear through the book, such as the story of a father and young son searching for a mother who disappears on holiday on a small Croatian island. Historical imaginings include an account of the journey of Chopin’s heart from Paris to Poland following his death, the ‘biography’ of the ‘discoverer’ of the achilles tendon, and an account of the peripatetic sect constantly on the move to elude the Devil. For Tokarczuk, we find ourselves, if we find ourselves at all, somewhere in the interplay between impulse and constraint.
Winner of 2018 THE MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE
2018 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST FOR TRANSLATED LITERATURE
Olga Tokarczuk is one of Poland's best and most beloved authors. In 2015 she received the Brueckepreis and the prestigious annual literary award from Poland's Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, as well as Poland's highest literary honor, the Nike, and the Nike Readers' Prize. Tokarczuk also received a Nike in 2009 for Flights. She is the author of eight novels and two short story collections, and has been translated into a dozen languages. Jennifer Croft is the recipient of Fulbright, PEN, MacDowell and National Endowment for the Arts grants and fellowships, as well as the Michael Henry Heim Prize for Translation. She holds a PhD from Northwestern University and an MFA from the University of Iowa.