‘The Books of Jacob,’ a Nobel Prize Winner’s Sophisticated and Overwhelming Novel

Dwight Garner in the New York Times:

The Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk was, in 2019, a youthful winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was 57, dreadlocked, mischievous of politics, a vegetarian.

Her novel “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” had recently been turned, by Agnieszka Holland, into the film “Spoor,” a slice of existential and ecology-minded dread.

Tokarczuk (pronounced To-KAR-chook) was not among those laureates the Swedish Academy sometimes seems to prop up in the crypt for a final viewing. Her career was, and is, in full gallop.

Her novels — they are often both pensive and mythic in tone — are slowly making their way into English. In addition to “Drive Your Plow,” these include the philosophical and often dazzling “Flights,” about travel and being between stations. It won the 2018 Man Booker International prize.

Tokarczuk’s most ambitious novel — the Swedish Academy called it her “magnum opus” — has long been said to be “The Books of Jacob,” first published in Poland in 2014. It’s here now. At nearly 1,000 pages, it is indeed magnum-size.

More here.