For those who haven’t read them from start-to-finish, here’s a roundup of Olga Tokarczuk’s books—one of Poland’s most critically acclaimed and successful authors of her generation.
The Journey of the Book-People [Podróż ludzi księgi]
Tokarczuk’s debut. The Book-People travel.
It’s a bit like the science fiction TV show Stranger Things, only that the action is set a long time ago in Wrocław. One girl is a medium but she might just be faking it.
Primeval and Other Times [Prawiek i inne czasy]
Primeval is not an era, it’s a village. Tokarczuk writes a lot about death. There are also side plots, however.
The Wardrobe [Szafa]
Short stories. There is one about a maid in a hotel. Although, why write about maids when you could write about King Bolesław the Brave or the Battle of Cedynia, is this still Polish literature?
House of Day, House of Night [Dom dzienny, dom nocny]
A lot of strange stuff is happening in the mountains. Someone has a dream. Somebody dies. There is also a woman with a beard, and a recipe on how to prepare poisonous mushrooms.
The Doll and the Pearl [Lalka i perła]
Tokarczuk writes about The Doll by Bolesław Prus (which is also a fairly long novel) and adds a little bit about Carl Jung, as if the young aristocrat Izabela Łęcka were an archetype.
Playing on Many Drums [Gra na wielu bębenkach]
Short stories. Just as Tokarczuk’s had enough of the woman with a beard in House of Day, House of Night, a man who breastfeeds is introduced.
The Last Stories [Ostatnie historie]
Women and death.
Anna In in the Tombs of the World [Anna In w grobowcach świata]
Another book about women and death. A Sumerian goddess goes to hell, and then wants to get out but she can’t. Her friend helps. We don’t know if the action takes place in summer or in some kind of futuristic city.
A long book with short chapters. It’s all about traveling.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead [Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych]
A crime story with animals. At first it seems that they are the killers, before the realization that this isn’t necessarily the case.
The Books of Jacob [Księgi Jakubowe]
The story of Jacob Frank, the Messianic leader of a mysterious 18th-century Jewish splinter group. It’s not clear whether he’s a mystic or a fraud. Apart from him, there are 370 other characters in the book, most of whom appear episodically.
Bizarre Stories [Opowiadania bizarne]
Short stories. Some are from the future, some are from the past. There’s even one about androids.
If we’ve whetted your appetite to digest some of Olga Tokarczuk’s books from start to finish, you can find the following translated into English:
House of Day, House of Night. Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. London: Granta, 2002.
Primeval and Other Times. Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. Prague: Twisted Spoon Press, 2010.
Flights. Translated by Jennifer Croft. London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2018.
This translation was re-edited for context and accuracy on May 12, 2022
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