Flights, a novel about travel in the twenty-first century and human anatomy, is Olga Tokarczuk's most ambitious to date. It interweaves travel narratives and reflections on travel with an in-depth exploration of the human body, broaching life, death, motion, and migration. From the seventeenth century, we have the story of the Dutch anatomist Philip Verheyen, who dissected and drew pictures of his own amputated leg. From the eighteenth century, we have the story of a North African-born slave turned Austrian courtier stuffed and put on display after his death. In the nineteenth century, we follow Chopin's heart as it makes the covert journey from Paris to Warsaw. In the present we have the trials of a wife accompanying her much older husband as he teaches a course on a cruise ship in the Greek islands, and the harrowing story of a young husband whose wife and child mysteriously vanish on a holiday on a Croatian island. With her signature grace and insight, Olga Tokarczuk guides the reader beyond the surface layer of modernity and towards the core of the very nature of humankind.
'Flights could almost be an inventory of the ways narrative can serve a writer short of, and beyond, telling a story.' --Adam Mars-Jones, London Review of Books
'Olga Tokarczuk is a household name in Poland and one of Europe's major humanist writers, working here in the continental tradition of "thinking" or essayistic novel. Flights has echoes of WG Sebald, Milan Kundera, Danilo Kis and Dubravka Ugresic, but Tokarczuk inhabits a rebellious, playful register very much her own...Flights is a passionate and enchantingly discursive plea for meaningful connectedness, for the acceptance of "fluidity, mobility, illusoriness". After all, Tokarczuk reminds us, "Barbarians don't travel. They simply go to destinations or conduct raids". Hotels on the continent would do well to have a copy of Flights on the bedside table. I can think of no better travel companion in these turbulent, fanatical times.' -Kapka Kassabova, Guardian
'a profound meditation on time, mythology, the self and human anatomy...[W]e drift along happily on her flights of fancy, as her travels across space give way to journeys through history and deep into the psyche. Jennifer Croft's bump-free translation only adds to the reader's pleasure.' --Chris Moss, Prospect Magazine
'In the vein of WG Sebald [Flights] knits together snippets of fiction, narrative and reflection to meditate on human anatomy and the meaning of travel: this is a delicate, ingenious book that is constantly making new connections.' --Justine Jordan, Guardian
'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 apparent lack of a single plot, tightly weaves the text's different strands - of fiction, memoir and essay - into a whole. Some chapters are more akin to traditional travel notes: sketches of airport encounters, fellow travellers' 'confessions of whole lifetimes', and other things people often jot down when on a journey. There are also beautiful set pieces, occasionally split into recurring threads.' --Anna Aslanyan, Spectator