Justyna Beinek

Assistant Director of the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian studies Justyna Beinek discussed Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk's works at an event celebrating Tokarczuk's accomplishments.

Students and faculty of the KU Slavic Languages & Literature department gathered Tuesday night to appreciate the works of Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk and further bring attention to her “narrative imagination that, with encyclopedic passion, represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life,” according to the Nobel Prize website.

Tokarczuk is the first woman in 110 years to win a Nobel Prize in the literature category. Tokarczuk was awarded her medal in 2018; however, due to a sexual assault scandal that broke out in the Swedish Academy, Tokarczuk did not receive her prize until December 2019. 

During the table discussion, KU Slavic Languages and Literature department members discussed six of Tokarczuk’s works, including “The Tender Narrator,” “The Journey of the Book People,” “House of Day, House of Night,” “Flights,” “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” and “The Books of Jacob.” Each person shared a translated excerpt from their favorite piece and highlighted their personal favorites from the material. 

Professor Nathaniel Wood interacted with the piece “Flights” which was based off a time of Tokarczuk’s life full of traveling. Wood said it is, “a text that worships mobility,” as opposed to a lot of literature that, “relishes in rootedness.” 

 Wood explained how the extensive traveling of the protagonist in the piece highlights how Tokarczuk is able to “find meaning in cabinets of curiosity in different cities throughout her journey.” 

KU Professor Vitaly Chernetsky said Tokarczuk is a, “wonderful, ethical, thought-provoking, fearless human being,” as she commonly addresses controversial and unusual topics in her works. 

“Some of the ideas she talks about are met with hostility by a part of the more conservative part of society,” PhD student Krzysztok Borowski said. 

Graduate student Diana Chilton said Tokarczuk is a role model for women in literature all around the world because of her work addressing controversial topics.