The Nobel Prize-winner Olga Tokarczuk's richest and most ambitious novel yet follows the comet-like rise and fall of a messianic religious leader as he blazes his way across eighteenth-century Europe.
As new ideas—and a new unrest—begin to sweep the Continent, a young Jew of mysterious origins arrives in a village in Poland. Visited by what seem to be ecstatic experiences, Jacob Frank casts a spell that attracts a fervent following. He reinvents himself again and again, converts to Islam, then Catholicism, is pilloried as a heretic, revered as the Messiah, and wreaks havoc on the conventional order, Jewish and Christian alike, with scandalous rumours of his sect's secret rituals and the spread of his iconoclastic beliefs.
The story of Frank—a real historical figure, a divisive yet charismatic man—is the perfect canvas for the genius and unparalleled reach of Olga Tokarczuk. Narrated through the perspectives of his contemporaries—those who revere him, those who revile him, the friend who betrays him, the lone woman who sees him for what he is—The Books of Jacob captures a world on the cusp of precipitous change, searching for certainty and longing for transcendence.
Olga Tokarczuk is the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature and the Man Booker International Prize, for her novel Flights. She has received many other honours, including her country Poland's highest literary award, the Nike, for both Flights and The Books of Jacob, considered by many to be Tokarczuk's masterpiece. Her novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead was also highly praised. She is the author of nine novels, three story collections, a children's book and two collections of essays, and has been translated into fifty languages. Widely regarded as the most important Polish writer of her generation, she lives in Poland.
'A magnificent writer.' Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel Prize in Literature laureate 2015
'Olga Tokarczuk is a masterful storyteller who challenges expectations of what a story can be.' Age
'As for Ms. Tokarczuk, there's no doubt: She's a gifted, original writer, and the appearance of her novels in English is a welcome development.' Wall Street Journal
'One among a very few signal European novelists of the past quarter-century.' Economist