Winner of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize
‘One among a very few signal European novelists of the past quarter-century.’ Economist
Flights is a series of imaginative and mesmerising meditations on travel in all its forms, not only the philosophy and meaning of travel, but also fascinating anecdotes that take us out of ourselves, and back to ourselves.
Olga Tokarczuk brilliantly connects travel with spellbinding anecdotes about anatomy, about life and death, about the very nature of humankind. Thrilling characters and stories abound: the Russian sect who escape the devil by remaining constantly in motion; the anatomist Verheyen who writes letters to his amputated leg; the story of Chopin’s heart as it makes its journey from Paris to Warsaw, stored in a tightly sealed jar beneath his sister’s skirt; the quest of a Polish woman who emigrated to New Zealand as a teen but must now return in order to poison her terminally ill high-school sweetheart…
You will never read anything like this extraordinary, utterly original, mind-expanding book. Many consider Tokarczuk to be the most important Polish writer of her generation and Flights is one of those rare books that seems to conjure life itself out of the air.
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.
‘A magnificent writer.’Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel Prize in Literature laureate 2015
‘Tokarczuk examines questions of travel in our increasingly interconnected and fast-moving world...Trained as a psychologist, Tokarczuk is interested in what connects the human soul and body. It is a leitmotif that, despite the apparent lack of a single plot, tightly weaves the text’s different strands—of fiction, memoir and essay—into a whole.’ Spectator
‘Reading Flights is like finally hearing from a weird old best friend you lost touch with years ago and assumed was gone forever because people that amazing and inventive just don't last. Wrong—they were off rediscovering the world on your behalf, just as Olga Tokarczuk does.’ Toby Litt, author of Hospital
‘I have always considered her a person of great literary abilities. With Flights I have my proof. This is one of the most important Polish books I have read for years.’Jerzy Sosnowski
‘A novel in essays, a world-exploration in words, a soaring journey across space and through time.’ Nicolas Rothwell
‘A novel of intuitions as much as ideas, a cacophony of voices and stories seemingly unconnected across time and space, which meander between the profound and the facetious, the mysterious and the ordinary, and whose true register remains one of glorious ambiguity…Flights is a passionate and enchantingly discursive plea for meaningful connectedness, for the acceptance of “fluidity, mobility, illusoriness”.’ Guardian
‘Tokarczuk has a quizzical and highly observant eye, seeking and recording, turning perversely towards the deformed, the monstrous and abject… This all makes for excellent and entertaining reading as we are privy to scenes and descriptions from which our first reaction would be to turn away.’ Otago Daily Times
‘Clever with a dry wit and beautiful black and white maps throughout the book, which added to the feeling that reading it was like stepping into a museum.’ Good Reading
‘Flights is a fragmented, bursting-with-life novel…A lively and strange collection of portraits of unrelated characters, all in transit, woven together by the narrator’s essayistic musings.’ Australian
‘Tokarczuk is one of Europe’s most daring and original writers, and this astonishing performance is her glittering, bravura entry in the literature of ideas…Flights is a narrative to accompany one’s life—each new reading reveals a further destination, another idea to excite and engage the imagination…Flights is an international, mercurial, and always generous book, to be endlessly revisited. Like a glorious, charmingly impertinent travel companion, it reflects, challenges, and rewards.’ Los Angeles Review of Books
‘An indisputable masterpiece.’ Publishers Weekly (starred review)
‘Moving and profound.’ LitHub
‘Disarming and wonderfully encouraging...Croft’s translation from Polish is light as a feather yet captures well the economy and depth of Tokarczuk’s deceptively simple style. A welcome reminder of how love drives out fear and also a worthy Man Booker International winner for 2018.’ Millions, Most Anticipated
‘Travel writing usually presents a linear narrative—as departures and returns easily correspond with beginnings and endings. But Tokarczuk complicates this. Her characters, like the book’s episodic structure, resist neat demarcations...As I neared the end of Flights, I realised I had stopped searching for a moral in each of these stories. The book is like a map: including disparate parts not because they cause or connect to each other, but because their contours help clarify a wider, impersonal whole. In this way, Tokarczuk shows that even the loneliest traveler fits into a bigger scheme.’ Bookforum
‘Flights itself is a cabinet of curiosities, of “moments, crumbs, fleeting configurations”...The individual vignettes are themselves sculpted, and anchoring...Each self-enclosed account is tightly conceived and elegantly modulated, the language balletic, unforced.’ New York Times
‘Tokarczuk is one of Europe’s most daring and original writers, and this astonishing performance is her glittering, bravura entry in the literature of ideas…Flights is an international, mercurial, and always generous book, to be endlessly revisited.’ LA Review of Books