Culture, Travel & Sport

Olga Tokarczuk’s concept of the Tender Narrator named Emerging Europe’s Artistic Achievement 2020

Olga Tokarczuk’s  Nobel Prize Lecture has been named Emerging Europe’s Artistic Achievement 2020. The Polish writer won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature for her “narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life”.

“Olga Tokarczuk’s lecture offers an acute analysis of the state of miscommunication in the modern world,” says Andrew Wrobel, Emerging Europe’s founding partner. “It was thought that the internet, in providing universal access to all knowledge, would not only bring people happiness, well-being, health and wealth, but would also create an equal and just society. Instead, we suffer from isolation, fragmentation, a cacophony of sounds, disinformation, fake news. The world is dying, and we are failing to notice.”

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As Tokarczuk herself writes: “I keep wondering if these days it’s possible to find the foundations of a new story that’s universal, comprehensive, all-inclusive, rooted in nature, full of contexts and at the same time understandable. Could there be a story that would go beyond the uncommunicative prison of one’s own self, revealing a greater range of reality and showing the mutual connections? That would be able to keep its distance from the well-trodden, obvious and unoriginal centre point of commonly shared opinions, and manage to look at things ex-centrically, away from the centre?

“I dream of high viewing points and wide perspectives, where the context goes far beyond what we might have expected. I dream of a language that is capable of expressing the vaguest intuition, I dream of a metaphor that surpasses cultural differences, and finally of a genre that is capacious and transgressive, but that at the same time the readers will love. I also dream of a new kind of narrator―a ‘fourth-person’ one, who is not merely a grammatical construct of course, but who manages to encompass the perspective of each of the characters, as well as having the capacity to step beyond the horizon of each of them, who sees more and has a wider view, and who is able to ignore time. Oh yes, I think this narrator’s existence is possible.”

And it is a tender narrator. “Tenderness is the art of personifying, of sharing feelings, and thus endlessly discovering similarities. Creating stories means constantly bringing things to life, giving an existence to all the tiny pieces of the world that are represented by human experiences, the situations people have endured and their memories. Tenderness personalises everything to which it relates, making it possible to give it a voice, to give it the space and the time to come into existence, and to be expressed. It is thanks to tenderness that the teapot starts to talk. Tenderness is the most modest form of love. It is the kind of love that does not appear in the scriptures or the gospels, no one swears by it, no one cites it. It has no special emblems or symbols, nor does it lead to crime, or prompt envy.”

HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl – an artistic warning of what happens when societies stop listening to science, and Macedonian documentary Honeyland – an artistic portrayal of an ancient tradition and humanity’s balance with the ecosystem, joined the Tender Narrator on the podium.

Lithuania’s Sun and Sea (Marina), as performed at the 2019 Venice Biennale, a chilling work about climate change that is also an opera about a day at the beach, and Marina Abramović’s retrospective The Cleaner, with its symbolic climax in Belgrade, the city where her career began, and her first exhibition in her hometown in nearly 50 years, were also shortlisted.


The third edition of the Emerging Europe Awards, showcasing the best of the emerging Europe region: individuals, public and private organisations as well as projects and initiatives, had been scheduled to take place on June 25 at the European Parliament in Brussels. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, winners are being announced digitally.

This year’s laureates already include former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt and Bosnian musician Goran Bregović: both given Emerging Europe’s Remarkable Achievement Awards for 2020, and the EU’s anti-corruption chief Laura Codruţa Kövesi, named as Emerging Europe’s Public Figure of the Year.

The city of Budapest was chosen as the most business-friendly city in the region in a survey carried out by over 50 site selection experts and FDI advisers, while Enterprise Estonia was named the region’s leading investment promotion agency. Bulgarian Elena Hristova Marinova was named the Female Business Leader, three Albanian sixteen-year-olds – Arla Hoxha, Dea Rrozhani and Jonada Shukarasi became Young Influencers, and EIT Jumpstarter took the Young Empowerment Award.

More winners will be announced in the coming days.

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