The Books of Jacob

Longlist, National Book Awards 2022 for Translated Literature

book cover art for The Books of Jacob
ISBN 9780593087480
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House
author photo of Olga Tokarczuk. (Photo credit: Lukasz Giza)
Olga Tokarczuk

Olga Tokarczuk has won the Nobel Prize in Literature and the International Booker Prize, among many other honors. She is the author of a dozen works of fiction, two collections of essays, and a children’s book; her work has been translated into 50 languages. More about this author >

Jennifer Croft 

Jennifer Croft is the recipient of Fulbright, PEN, MacDowell, and National Endowment for the Arts grants and fellowships, as well as the inaugural Michael Henry Heim Prize for Translation, the 2018 Found in Translation Award, the 2018 International Booker Prize, and a Tin House Scholarship for her novel Homesick, originally written in Spanish. More about this author >

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Translated from the Polish 

From the publisher:

The Nobel Prize–winner’s richest, most sweeping and ambitious novel yet follows the comet-like rise and fall of a mysterious, messianic religious leader as he blazes his way across eighteenth-century Europe.

In the mid-eighteenth century, as new ideas—and a new unrest—begin to sweep the Continent, a young Jew of mysterious origins arrives in a village in Poland. Before long, he has changed not only his name but his persona; visited by what seem to be ecstatic experiences, Jacob Frank casts a charismatic spell that attracts an increasingly fervent following. In the decade to come, Frank will traverse the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires with throngs of disciples in his thrall as he reinvents himself again and again, converts to Islam and then Catholicism, is pilloried as a heretic and revered as the Messiah, and wreaks havoc on the conventional order, Jewish and Christian alike, with scandalous rumors of his sect’s secret rituals and the spread of his increasingly iconoclastic beliefs. The story of Frank—a real historical figure around whom mystery and controversy swirl to this day—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.

In a nod to books written in Hebrew, The Books of Jacob is paginated in reverse, beginning on p. 955 and ending on p. 1 – but read traditionally, front cover to back.

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