Olga Tokarczuk


Interview, December 2019

Interview with Literature Laureate Olga Tokarczuk on 6 December 2019 during the Nobel Week in Stockholm, Sweden.

Transcript of the interview

Olga Tokarczuk answers the following questions (the links below lead to clip on YouTube):

0:06 – Your parents were both teachers. How did that influence you?
1:35 – Did you enjoy school?
2:31 – What did you want to be when you were younger?
3:59 – How has your training as a psychologist affected the way you tell stories?
5:19 – Which experience has most influenced your work?
6:07 – What do you enjoy most about the process of writing?
8:27 – Do you think there are specific qualities that you need to be a good writer?
8:59 – Which book of yours would you recommend a new reader to start with?
9:55 – Who has most influenced you as a writer?
11:31 – How can we make women’s voices more heard in literature – and beyond?
13:14 – You unmask borders and nationalism in your work. Can you tell us about this theme?
15:30 – Would you say that travel and movement is a key theme in your work?
16:58 – How does the issue of sustainability appear in your work?
18:48 – Tell us about the foundation you’re creating using the prize money?
20:02 – What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring writers?
21:02 – A reading from the novel Bieguni (Flights) by Olga Tokarczuk, in Polish.

Short interview, December 2019

“Curiosity is an important motivation”

In this interview from the Nobel Banquet on 10 December 2019, Literature Laureate Olga Tokarczuk talks about her childhood dream of being a scientist, curiosity as motivation and the importance of translators.

Telephone interview, October 2019

“Such a prize will, in a way, give us a kind of optimism”

Telephone interview with Olga Tokarczuk after the announcement of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature on 10 October 2019. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer of Nobel Media.

Olga Tokarczuk speaks of the importance of the award of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature as a symbol of hope for those worried about the ‘Crisis in democracy’ she sees facing central Europe. She received the news from the Swedish Academy while driving on a book tour in Germany for the launch the German version of The Books of Jacob. Shortly afterwards, she kindly took time for this brief conversation, amidst a bombardment of calls and texts as she sat by the side of the road.

Interview transcript

Olga Tokarczuk: Hello, Olga Tokarczuk speaking.

Adam Smith: Oh hello, my name is Adam Smith. I’m speaking from Nobelprize.org, the website of the Nobel Prize. Many congratulations on the award of the Nobel Prize.

OT: Thank you so much. I am in the car still and I cannot, you know, really drive, and I have to be in the evening in Bielefeld.

AS: So, how did you hear the news?

OT: Funny situation because I am, as I told you, on the road. We are driving in Germany, so they called me from Nobel Academy just 15 minutes before and … and then I was so surprised, and I’m still very surprised. And I cannot find out, you know … the right words, how to express, and … which is very new for me, that there are thousands of telephones calls and texts. So I would like to reach a stable place somewhere, a hotel or whatever, and, yeah, just to take my time to … for reaction.

AS: Of course, no, being caught on the side of the road is hardly the most convenient thing.

OT: Yeah, yeah.

AS: In the citation, the Swedish Academy talk about ‘the crossing of boundaries as a form of life’, and that seems to apply particularly to you at this precise moment.

OT: Yeah, very literally, because I’m on the way, yeah.

AS: You sound very happy though.

OT: Yeah, I’m very happy. Of course I’m very happy, and I am proud that I am with Peter Handke, and that we, both of us, we are from central Europe. It’s really very meaningful for me, this Nobel Prize is going to central Europe. I’m really, really very proud.

AS: Can I just ask you, what is it that you think that makes the writing of central Europe different to, for instance, the west of Europe?

OT: Oh, this is a long subject. But I think just right now we have a problem in central Europe with democracy. We are trying to find out our own way to … how to manage with those problems. And I think that such a prize, literary prize, in a way will give us a kind of optimism that we have something to say to the world, and that we are still active, and we still have an ability to express ourselves, and we have something profound to tell to the world. So I hope so, so it’s really very special for me. And I’m also very proud that we, with Peter Handke, that I am, as the winner from 2018, I am the first writer awarded by this new Nobel Prize academy after this crisis. So it’s also very meaningful for me. Thank you so much.

AS: It’s a pleasure. We look forward to seeing you in Stockholm in December. Thank you very much indeed.

OT: Thank you, bye bye.

AS: Bye bye.

Did you find any typos in this text? We would appreciate your assistance in identifying any errors and to let us know. Thank you for taking the time to report the errors by sending us an e-mail.

To cite this section
MLA style: Olga Tokarczuk – Interview. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2020. Tue. 14 Jul 2020. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/2018/tokarczuk/interview/>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.