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Reading Group

Seminar: Crossing Boundaries As A Form of Life: Olga Tokarczuk’s The Books of Jacob, with Nicholas Birns

Wednesday, February 14, 2024 - 11:00 AM | Whitridge Room | for members only | $75 for the three sessions | registration required

The Books of Jacob (2014) is the central work of the acclaimed contemporary Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk, winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”

Tokarczuk’s nearly thousand-page novel, translated into English by Jennifer Croft (herself a noted memoirist and novelist) teems with knowledge memory, and experience telling a compelling story even as it brings alive a vanished world. In telling the story of the eighteenth-century Polish Jew Jacob Frank - at different times messianic claimant and holy fool; shaman and showman; Muslim, Catholic; and Jew - Tokarczuk uses the form of the historical novel to explore questions of identity in an era, much like ours, poised uneasily between ethnocentric and pluralist ideas of nationhood.