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High Culture

As fact and fiction blur, America’s finally ready for Polish author Olga Tokarczuk

Man Booker prize winners Olga Tokarczuk and her translator Jennifer Croft on maps that lead nowhere, plasticized anatomies, and humor across national borders.
Key Takeaways
  • Our fragmented times demand a new kind of novel.
  • Here, Olga talks humor across the world...
  • ... and maps that lead us nowhere.


Author Olga Tokarczuk and translator Jennifer Croft

Does it ever strike you as odd that we manage to inhabit two completely different realities at once? On one level, we have common sense and reason that orient us in the world. We make narrative sense of our own life and self and we go about our day with a provisional yet perfectly satisfactory sense of what the hell we’re doing. And on another level, we know basically nothing. Forget about dark matter and multiple universes. Just glance into the eyes of that stranger on the train—there’s a whole world in there that you know nothing whatsoever about.

I’m here today with Olga Tokarczuk, who won the Man Booker prize this year for her book FLIGHTS, and with the book’s Man Booker prizewinning translator, Jennifer Croft. Flights is a patterned assemblage of sketches, short stories, fragmentary essays about travel. Motion. And it kept striking me while reading it that her writing is about these two worlds we always waver between: Orientation and disorientation. Trying to map things out and then getting lost inside our own maps.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode:

Alissa Quart on coparenting as a growing necessity in America

Astronaut Chris Hadfield on risk taking


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