The Empusium: A Health Resort Horror Story

Olga Tokarczuk

Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

French paperback with flaps, 336 pages
Published 26 September 2024

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In September 1913, a young Pole suffering from tuberculosis arrives at Wilhelm Opitz’s Guesthouse for Gentlemen, a health resort in the Silesian mountains. Every evening the residents gather to imbibe the hallucinogenic local liqueur and debate the great issues of the day: monarchy or democracy? Do devils exist? Are women born inferior? War or peace? Meanwhile, disturbing things are happening in the guesthouse and the surrounding hills. Someone – or something – seems to be watching, attempting to infiltrate this cloistered world. Little does the newcomer realize, as he tries to unravel both the truths within himself and the mystery of the sinister forces beyond, that they have already chosen their next target. A century after the publication of The Magic Mountain, Olga Tokarczuk revisits Thomas Mann territory and lays claim to it, blending horror story, comedy, folklore and feminist parable with brilliant storytelling.

‘Olga Tokarczuk is inspired by maps and a perspective from above, which tends to make her microcosmos a mirror of macrocosmos. She constructs her novels in a tension between cultural opposites: nature versus culture, reason versus madness, male versus female, home versus alienation. Her magnum opus so far is the historical novel The Books of Jacob, portraying the eighteenth-century mystic and sect leader Jacob Frank. The work also gives us a remarkably rich panorama of an almost neglected chapter in European history.’
— 2018 Nobel Committee for Literature

‘A magnificent writer.’
— Svetlana Alexievich

‘A writer on the level of W. G. Sebald.’
— Annie Proulx

‘One among a very few signal European novelists of the past quarter-century.’
The Economist

Praise for The Books of Jacob

‘[A] visionary novel…. Tokarczuk is wrestling with the biggest philosophical themes: the purpose of life on earth, the nature of religion, the possibility of redemption, the fraught and terrible history of eastern European Jewry. With its formidable insistence on rendering an alien world with as much detail as possible, the novel reminded me at times of Paradise Lost. The vividness with which it’s done is amazing. At a micro-level, she sees things with a poetic freshness…. The Books of Jacob, which is so demanding and yet has so much to say about the issues that rack our times, will be a landmark in the life of any reader with the appetite to tackle it.’
— Marcel Theroux, Guardian

‘The Books of Jacob is a spellbinding epic, one of the great literary achievements of the decade: a poetically brimful recreation of the world of a Jewish false messiah in eighteenth-century Poland, but beyond as well to mystically drawn priests and errant aristocrats. Charged with a sensuous immediacy it’s the kind of hypnotic novel you not so much read as dwell in, and which then, magically, comes to dwell in you.’
— Simon Schama, Financial Times

‘Sophisticated and ribald and brimming with folk wit…. The comedy in this novel blends, as it does in life, with genuine tragedy.’
— Dwight Garner, New York Times

Praise for Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

‘Drive Your Plow is exhilarating in a way that feels fierce and private, almost inarticulable; it’s one of the most existentially refreshing novels I’ve read in a long time.’
— Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker

‘Though the book functions perfectly as noir crime – moving towards a denouement that, for sleight of hand and shock, should draw admiration from the most seasoned Christie devotee – its chief preoccupation is with unanswerable questions of free will versus determinism, and with existential unease…. In Antonia Lloyd-Jones’s translation, the prose is by turns witty and melancholy, and never slips out of that distinctive narrative voice…. [A]n astonishing amalgam of thriller, comedy and political treatise, written by a woman who combines an extraordinary intellect with an anarchic sensibility.’
— Sarah Perry, Guardian

Praise for Flights

Flights works like a dream does: with fragmentary trails that add up to a delightful reimagining of the novel itself.’
— Marlon James, author of Moon Witch, Spider King

‘Olga Tokarczuk is a household name in Poland and one of Europe’s major humanist writers, working here in the continental tradition of the “thinking” or essayistic novel. Flights has echoes of W. G. Sebald, Milan Kundera, Danilo Kiš and Dubravka Ugrešić, but Tokarczuk inhabits a rebellious, playful register very much her own…. Flights is a passionate and enchantingly discursive plea for meaningful connectedness, for the acceptance of “fluidity, mobility, illusoriness”. After all, Tokarczuk reminds us, “Barbarians don’t travel. They simply go to destinations or conduct raids.” Hotels on the continent would do well to have a copy of Flights on the bedside table. I can think of no better travel companion in these turbulent, fanatical times.’
— Kapka Kassabova, Guardian

‘It’s a busy, beautiful vexation, this novel, a quiver full of fables of pilgrims and pilgrimages, and the reasons – the hidden, the brave, the foolhardy – we venture forth into the world…. The book is transhistorical, transnational; it leaps back and forth through time, across fiction and fact. Interspersed with the narrator’s journey is a constellation of discrete stories that share rhyming motifs and certain turns of phrase…. In Jennifer Croft’s assured translation, each self-enclosed account is tightly conceived and elegantly modulated, the language balletic, unforced.’
— Parul Sehgal, New York Times

‘The best novel I’ve read in years is Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights (trans. Jennifer Croft).’
— Rabih Alameddine, author of An Unnecessary Woman

Olga Tokarczuk is the author of nine novels, three short story collections and has been translated into more than fifty languages. Her novel Flights won the 2018 International Booker Prize, in Jennifer Croft’s translation. She is the recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature. The Empusium is her fourth novel to appear in English with Fitzcarraldo Editions.

Antonia Lloyd-Jones has translated works by many of Poland’s leading contemporary novelists and reportage authors, as well as crime fiction, poetry and children’s books. Her translation of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk was shortlisted for the 2019 International Booker Prize.