Flights (novel)

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First English edition
AuthorOlga Tokarczuk
Original titleBieguni
TranslatorJennifer Croft
Set in17th–21st century
Media typePrint, digital
ISBN1910695432 (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Flights (Polish: Bieguni, lit.'runners') is a 2007 fragmentary novel by the Polish author Olga Tokarczuk. The book was translated into English by Jennifer Croft.[1] The original Polish title refers to runaways (runners, bieguni), a sect of Old Believers, who believe that being in constant motion is a trick to avoid evil.[2]

Set between the 17th and 21st centuries, the novel is a "philosophical rumination on modern-day travel".[3] It is structured as a series of vignettes, some fictional, and some based on fact – among them that of the Dutch anatomist Philip Verheyen's discovery of the achilles tendon, and the story of Ludwika Jędrzejewicz, the sister of the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin, transporting his heart back to Warsaw.[4][5]

The novel won the Man Booker International Prize in 2018, marking the first time a Polish author received the award.[3][6] The chair of the judging panel, Lisa Appignanesi, described Tokarczuk as a "writer of wonderful wit, imagination, and literary panache".[7] Tokarczuk and Croft shared the £50,000 prize.[8]


The novel is split into 116 short pieces,[9] some only one sentence long, others as long as 31 pages.[10] These vignettes are all narrated by the same "nameless female traveller".[9][11][12]


  1. "Here I am"
  2. "The World in Your Head"
  3. "Your Head in the World"
  4. "Syndrome"
  5. "Cabinet of Curiosities"
  6. "Seeing Is Knowing"
  7. "Seven Years of Trips"
  8. "Guidance from Cioran"
  9. "Kunicki: Water (i)"
  10. "Benedictus, Qui Venit"
  11. "Panopticon"
  12. "Kunicki: Water (ii)"
  13. "Everywhere and Nowhere"
  14. "Airports"
  15. "Returning to One's Roots"
  16. "Travel Sizes"
  17. "Mano di Giovanni Battista"
  18. "The Original and the Copy"
  19. "Trains for Cowards"
  20. "Abandoned Apartment"
  21. "The Book of Infamy"
  22. "Guidebooks"
  23. "New Athens"
  24. "Wikipedia"
  25. "Citizens of the World Pick Up Your Pens!"
  26. "Travel Psychology: Lectio Brevis I"
  27. "The Right Time and Place"
  28. "Instructions"
  29. "Ash Wednesday Feast"
  30. "North Pole Expeditions"
  31. "The Psychology of an Island"
  32. "Purging the Map"
  33. "In Pursuit of Night"
  34. "Sanitary Pads"
  35. "Relics: Peregrinatio ad Loca Sancta"
  36. "Belly Dance"
  37. "Meridians"
  38. "Unus Mundus"
  39. "Harem (Menchu's Tale)"
  40. "Another of Menchu's Tales"
  41. "Cleopatra"
  42. "A Very Long Quarter of an Hour"
  43. "Apuleius the Donkey"
  44. "Media Presenters"
  45. "Atatürk's Reforms"
  46. "Kali Yuga"
  47. "Wax Model Collections"
  48. "Dr Blau's Travels (i)"
  49. "Josefina Soliman's First Letter to Franz I, Emperor of Austria"
  50. "Among the Maori"
  51. "Dr Blau's Travels (ii)"
  52. "Plane of Profligates"
  53. "Pilgrim's Make-ups"
  54. "Josefina Soliman's Second Letter to Franz I, Emperor of Austria"
  55. "Sarira"
  56. "The Bodhi Tree"
  57. "Home Is My Hotel"
  58. "Travel Psychology: Lectio Brevis II"
  59. "Compatriots"
  60. "Travel Psychology: Conclusion"
  61. "The Tongue Is the Strongest Muscle"
  62. "Speak! Speak!"
  63. "Frog and Bird"
  64. "Lines, Planes and Bodies"
  65. "The Achilles Tendon"
  66. "The History of Filip Verheyen Written by His Student and Confidant William van Horssen"
  67. "Letters to the Amputated Leg"
  68. "Travel Tales"
  69. "Three Hundred Kilometres"
  70. "30,000 Guilders"
  71. "The Tsar's Collection"
  72. "Irkutsk - Moscow"
  73. "Dark Matter"
  74. "Morality is Reality"
  75. "Flights"
  76. "What the Shrouded Runaway Was Saying"
  77. "Josefina Soliman's Third Letter to Franz I"
  78. "Things Not Made by Human Hands"
  79. "Purity of Blood"
  80. "Kunstkammer"
  81. "Mano di Constantino"
  82. "Mapping the Void"
  83. "Another Cook"
  84. "Whales, or Drowning in Air"
  85. "Godzone"
  86. "Fear Not"
  87. "Day of the Dead"
  88. "Ruth"
  89. "Reception at Large Fancy Hotels"
  90. "Point"
  91. "Cross Section as Learning Method"
  92. "Chopin's Heart"
  93. "My Specimens"
  94. "Network State"
  95. "Swastikas"
  96. "Vendors of Names"
  97. "Death and Action"
  98. "Evidence"
  99. "Nine"
  100. "Attempts at Travel Stereometry"
  101. "Even"
  102. "Świebodzin"
  103. "Kunicki: Earth"
  104. "Island Symmetries"
  105. "Air-Sickness Bags"
  106. "The Earth's Nipples"
  107. "Pogo"
  108. "Wall"
  109. "Amphitheatre in Sleep"
  110. "Map of Greece"
  111. "Kairos"
  112. "I'm Here"
  113. "On the Origin of Species"
  114. "Final Timetable"
  115. "The Polymer Preservation Process, Step by Step"
  116. "Boarding"


Critical reception[edit]

The review aggregator website Book Marks reported that 53% of critics gave the book a "rave" review, whilst the other 47% of the critics expressed "positive" impressions, based on a sample of 19 reviews.[13]

Kirkus Reviews stated that the book was "a welcome introduction to a major author and a pleasure for fans of contemporary European literature."[14] The Guardian described it as "extraordinary" and "a passionate and enchantingly discursive plea for meaningful connectedness".[15] Tokarczuk's writing in Flights has been compared to that of W. G. Sebald,[15] Milan Kundera,[15] and László Krasznahorkai, among others.[16] Parul Sehgal of The New York Times said of Tokarczuk's narrator that she is "coolly evasive in the way of Rachel Cusk’s heroine in the Outline trilogy".

Awards and accolades[edit]

In 2008, the Polish version of the book won the Nike Award, Poland's highest literary award.[17]

In 2018, the English translation of the book won the Man Booker International Prize. Summarising the decision of the judges' panel, its chair, Lisa Appignanesi, said "we loved the voice of the narrative – it’s one that moves from wit and gleeful mischief to real emotional texture and has the ability to create character very quickly, with interesting digression and speculation."[4][18]


  1. ^ Tokarczuk, Olga (2017-05-17). Flights. Translated by Croft, Jennifer. Fitzcarraldo Editions. ISBN 9781910695432.
  2. ^ "Bieguni". Booklips (in Polish).
  3. ^ a b "Olga Tokarczuk of Poland Wins Man Booker International Prize". The New York Times. 2018-05-22. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  4. ^ a b Flood, Alison (2018-05-22). "Olga Tokarczuk's 'extraordinary' Flights wins Man Booker International prize". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  5. ^ Tokarczuk, Olga (2018). Flights (Expected release: 8/2018 ed.). Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 9780525534198.
  6. ^ Flood, Alison (2018-05-22). "Olga Tokarczuk's 'extraordinary' Flights wins Man Booker International prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  7. ^ "First Polish writer wins global Booker". BBC News. 2018-05-22. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  8. ^ "Olga Tokarczuk becomes first Polish winner of International Man Booker Prize". Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  9. ^ a b Grey, Tobias (August 9, 2018). "Olga Tokarczuk's Book 'Flights' Is Taking Off". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  10. ^ "Flights | Olga Tokarczuck's theory of knowledge". Hypercritic. Retrieved 2023-03-12.
  11. ^ "Flights - Asymptote". Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  12. ^ "Flights:An extract from Polish author Olga Tokarczuk's mythical new book". Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  13. ^ "Flights". Book Marks. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  14. ^ FLIGHTS by Olga Tokarczuk, Jennifer Croft | Kirkus Reviews.
  15. ^ a b c Kassabova, Kapka (2017-06-03). "Flights by Olga Tokarczuk review – the ways of wanderers". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  16. ^ Battersby, Eileen (2018-04-11). "Complex Harmonies: On Olga Tokarczuk's "Flights" - Los Angeles Review of Books". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  17. ^ "Olga Tokarczuk of Poland Wins Man Booker International Prize". The New York Times. 2018-05-22. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  18. ^ "Olga Tokarczuk becomes first Polish winner of International Man Booker Prize". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 2018-05-29.