Flights (Penguin), by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft
Polish author Olga Tokarczuk has been awarded Poland’s highest literary honour (the Nike) and this book, her eighth, is a series of meditations on travel. Flights won the Man Booker International Prize (2018). The philosophy and meaning of travel, anecdotes that take us out of ourselves, and back to ourselves, may be an expected part of Flights, but Tokarczuk also connects travel with anecdotes about anatomy, about life and death, about the very nature of humankind. Almost unbelievable characters and stories abound, including the Russian sect that escapes the devil by remaining constantly in motion; the anatomist Verheyen who writes letters to his amputated leg; the journey of Chopin’s heart from Paris to Warsaw; and the quest of a Polish woman to poison her terminally ill high-school sweetheart.