Olga Tokarczuk novel nominated for Leipzig Book Fair prize (after nabbing NIKE Award in 2008)

Esther Kinsky’s German translation of Olga Tokarczuk’s 2007 novel BIEGUNI (The Runners—translated into German as UNRAST—Restlessness) has just been nominated for the 2009 Translation Award of the Leipzig Book Fair.

bieguni2 unrast3

Published by the Kraków-based Wydawnictwo Literackie in 2007, BIEGUNI won the 2008 NIKE Award, the most prestigious literary prize in Poland. The book is, in the Polish Book Institute’s words:

…a collection of longer, shorter and extremely brief stories, [that] forms a carefully thought-out whole and is very artfully constructed. The theme of the stories is a way of life that involves non-stop travelling.

Schöffling & Co. released Kinsky’s translation on 11 March. Here’s a quick translation of the copy from their website:

A woman and her young son mysteriously disappear while on vacation; an Orthodox sect keeps wandering from one place to the next in their attempt to elude the devil; the female narrator is permanently on the move: in her new book RESTLESSNESS, the eminent Polish author Olga Tokarczuk deals with the wanderlust and nomadism of modern humans. Traversing a range of genres, from travelogue to mythological fable to philosophical observation, she captures the hectic pace of modern life in a finely woven narrative universe and irresistibly delightful prose.

The original is 297 pages. Translation rights are held by the Dutch publisher De Geus. Andrew Leader has very generously translated into English an interview with Tokarczuk about the book and made it available on his great Polish Writing site.

With seven books in German, Tokarczuk has quite a following there, but is unfortunately little known in English. Antonia Lloyd-Jones’s translation of her HOUSE OF DAY, HOUSE OF NIGHT was published by Granta Books in the UK and Northwestern UP in the US. But aside from that one book, her English incarnation is available mainly in periodicals, most online. Words Without Borders has published two short pieces of hers, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones and Jennifer Croft respectively. Polish Writing has published another story translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones as well as an excerpt of House of Day, House of Night and two interesting interviews. Chicago Review published a story translated by Kim Jastremski in its 2000 Polish issue.


Olga Tokarczuk will be reading tonight (actually, given the time difference, she’s probably reading as I’m writing this) in the Kunsthalle der Sparkasse Leipzig. It is the last of four “author evenings” sponsored by the Polish Book Institute. The three previous ones featured Magdalena Tulli (well known here through Bill Johnston’s translations for Archipelago), Sylwia Chutnik (a young author who was just awarded Polityka Magazine’s Paszport Prize for her book THE POCKET ATLAS OF WOMEN), and another young authoress named Katarzyna Sowula.


The other books nominated for the Leipzig Book Fair translation prize are listed here. True to the pattern of international translation written about recently on the Three Percent blog, three of the five nominees are translations from English (Maeve Brennan’s The Springs of Affection; Burroughs’s Naked Lunch; and Saul Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift), one is from Spanish (Don Quixote), and Tokarczuk. All inequities aside, that’s not bad company at all.

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