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Translated by Jennifer Croft
Flights is a series of imaginative and mesmerising meditations on travel in all its forms, not only the philosophy and meaning of travel, but also fascinating anecdotes that take us out of ourselves, and back to ourselves.
Olga Tokarczuk brilliantly connects travel with spellbinding anecdotes about anatomy, about life and death, about the very nature of humankind. Thrilling characters and stories abound: the Russian sect who escape the devil by remaining constantly in motion; the anatomist Verheyen who writes letters to his amputated leg; the story of Chopin’s heart as it makes its journey from Paris to Warsaw, stored in a tightly sealed jar beneath his sister’s skirt; the quest of a Polish woman who emigrated to New Zealand as a teen but must now return in order to poison her terminally ill high-school sweetheart…
You will never read anything like this extraordinary, utterly original, mind-expanding book. Many consider Tokarczuk to be the most important Polish writer of her generation and Flights is one of those rare books that seems to conjure life itself out of the air.
‘A magnificent writer.’
‘One among a very few signal European novelists of the past quarter-century.’
‘A novel of intuitions as much as ideas, a cacophony of voices and stories seemingly unconnected across time and space, which meander between the profound and the facetious, the mysterious and the ordinary, and whose true register remains one of glorious ambiguity…Flights is a passionate and enchantingly discursive plea for meaningful connectedness, for the acceptance of “fluidity, mobility, illusoriness”.’
‘A novel in essays, a world-exploration in words, a soaring journey across space and through time.’
‘Tokarczuk examines questions of travel in our increasingly interconnected and fast-moving world…Trained as a psychologist, Tokarczuk is interested in what connects the human soul and body. It is a leitmotif that, despite the apparent lack of a single plot, tightly weaves the text’s different strands—of fiction, memoir and essay—into a whole.’
‘Reading Flights is like finally hearing from a weird old best friend you lost touch with years ago and assumed was gone forever because people that amazing and inventive just don’t last. Wrong—they were off rediscovering the world on your behalf, just as Olga Tokarczuk does.’
‘I have always considered her a person of great literary abilities. With Flights I have my proof. This is one of the most important Polish books I have read for years.’
‘Tokarczuk’s peerless travel guide is actually a guide to living. Every word, observation, reflection and story embraces the importance of staying mobile in thought as much as in being…This is as brilliant and life-affirming as literature gets.’
‘Tokarczuk has a quizzical and highly observant eye, seeking and recording, turning perversely towards the deformed, the monstrous and abject… This all makes for excellent and entertaining reading as we are privy to scenes and descriptions from which our first reaction would be to turn away.’
‘Clever with a dry wit and beautiful black and white maps throughout the book, which added to the feeling that reading it was like stepping into a museum.’