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.
About the Author
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 fifty languages.
Jennifer Croft won the 2020 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing for her illustrated memoir Homesick and the 2018 Booker International Prize for her translation of Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights.
Advance praise for The Books of Jacob:
“Prodigious. ... Combining immense erudition to writing that is as fluid as it is poetic, [Tokarczuk] brings to life over the course of a thousand pages the epic story of a messianic group in a multicultural Poland.” – Le Monde
“A literary-philosophical masterpiece” –Die Zeit
“The heaviest book of the year is also the best … one day, [Tokarczuk] will receive the Nobel prize!” –Helsingborgs Dagblad
“Can you write a 900-page novel that keeps you in suspense? Olga Tokarczuk succeeded.” –Polityka