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Flights

Flights, a novel about travel in the twenty-first century and human anatomy, is Olga Tokarczuk’s most ambitious to date. It interweaves travel narratives and reflections on travel with an in-depth exploration of the human body, broaching life, death, motion, and migration. From the seventeenth century, we have the story of the Dutch anatomist Philip Verheyen, who dissected and drew pictures of his own amputated leg. From the eighteenth century, we have the story of a North African-born slave turned Austrian courtier stuffed and put on display after his death. In the nineteenth century, we follow Chopin’s heart as it makes the covert journey from Paris to Warsaw. In the present we have the trials of a wife accompanying her much older husband as he teaches a course on a cruise ship in the Greek islands, and the harrowing story of a young husband whose wife and child mysteriously vanish on a holiday on a Croatian island. With her signature grace and insight, Olga Tokarczuk guides the reader beyond the surface layer of modernity and towards the core of the very nature of humankind.

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2018 | Guardian Best Books of the Year 2017 | Financial Times Summer Books 2017

‘A magnificent writer.’
— Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel Prize in Literature laureate 2015

‘One among a very few signal European novelists of the past quarter-century.’
The Economist

Flights could almost be an inventory of the ways narrative can serve a writer short of, and beyond, telling a story. The book’s prose is a lucid medium in which narrative crystals grow to an ideal size, independent structures not disturbing the balance of the whole … Much of the pleasure of reading Flights comes from the essay clusters embedded between sections of narratives ... The cascades of concise interstitial passages are often satisfying riffs on time and space, bodies and language, repetition and uniqueness … Jennifer Croft’s translation is exceptionally adventurous … she can give the impression, not of passing on meanings long after the event, but of being the present at the moment when language reached out to thought.’
— Adam Mars-Jones, London Review of Books

‘Olga Tokarczuk is a household name in Poland and one of Europe’s major humanist writers, working here in the continental tradition of the “thinking” or essayistic novel. Flights has echoes of WG Sebald, Milan Kundera, Danilo Kiš and Dubravka Ugrešic, but Tokarzcuk inhabits a rebellious, playful register very much her own. ... Flights is a passionate and enchantingly discursive plea for meaningful connectedness, for the acceptance of “fluidity, mobility, illusoriness”. After all, Tokarczuk reminds us, “Barbarians don’t travel. They simply go to destinations or conduct raids.” Hotels on the continent would do well to have a copy of Flights on the bedside table. I can think of no better travel companion in these turbulent, fanatical times.’
— Kapka Kassabova, Guardian

‘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. ... A select few novels possess the wonder of music, and this is one of them. No two readers will experience it exactly the same way. 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.’
— Eileen Battersby, Los Angeles Review of Books

‘An ambitious work ... about travel (broadly conceived) that intermingles fact and fiction and takes theme, not narrative, as its guiding star. ... For those with a taste for chaos, there are many rewards. This is a book about rootlessness in the grandest sense – which is to say it is a book about mortality.’
— Amanda DeMarco, Times Literary Supplement

‘A profound meditation on time, mythology, the self and human anatomy …  We drift along happily on her flights of fancy, as her travels across space give way to journeys through history and deep into the psyche. Jennifer Croft’s bump-free translation only adds to the reader’s pleasure.’
— Chris Moss, Prospect Magazine

‘In the vein of W. G. Sebald, Flights knits together snippets of fiction, narrative and reflection to meditate on human anatomy and the meaning of travel: this is a delicate, ingenious book that is constantly making new connections.’
— Justine Jordan, Guardian

 

Territories: Poland: Literackie; World English: Fitzcarraldo; US: Riverhead; Australia: Text; Albania: Albas; Arabic: Dar Altanweer; Azerbaijan: Alatoran Literature Magazine and Book Publishing; Bosnia: Bybook Publishing House; Brazil: Tinta Negra; Bulgaria: Izdatelstvo; Vesela Luckanova; China: Gingko; Croatia: Fraktura; Czech Republic: Host; Denmark: Gyldendal; Finland: Otava; France: Noir Sur Blanc; Germany: Kampa; Georgia: Intelekti Publishing; Greece: Kastaniotis; Holland: De Geus; Israel: Achuzat Bayit; Italy: Bompiani; Korea: Minumsa; Lithuania: LWU; Macedonia: Ili Ili; Malayalam: Green Books; Norway: Den Grønne; Malen; Portugal: Editora 20/20; Romania: Polirom; Russia: Eksmo; Serbia: Paideia; Slovenia: Modrijan; Spain: Anagrama; Spain (Catalan): Rata; Sweden: Ariel; Turkey: Alabanda; Ukraine: Folio
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