Cover of the book, The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk next to an illustration of a group of people gathered around the body of Jacob Frank

Credits (left to right): The Books of Jacob book cover, courtesy of the publisher; Jakob Joseph Frank auf dem Paradebette 1791, Public Domain, illustration courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (

Words and IdeasOnline Programs

Olga Tokarczuk—The Books of Jacob

The Story of Eighteenth-Century Cult Leader Jacob Frank | Online Talk

Sunday, February 13, 12:00 pm (PT)

About the Program

Nobel Prize–winning author and activist Olga Tokarczuk joins us online from Poland to discuss her magnum opus, The Books of Jacob, with the novel’s Polish-to-English translator, author Jennifer Croft, and LA’s favorite literary curator, Louise Steinman.

This sweeping story follows the comet-like rise and fall of Jacob Frank, a real-life messianic religious figure, as he blazes his way across eighteenth-century Europe. Narrated through the perspectives of his contemporaries—those who revere him, those who revile him—The Books of Jacob captures a world on the cusp of precipitous change, searching for certainty and longing for transcendence.

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“Spiced with witty colloquialisms and wonderful turns of phrase ... Tokarczuk explores the state of being an outsider in places with fixed cultural boundaries.”—Booklist

Donor Support

This program is made possible in part by support from:
Rebekah and Howard Farber