BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Olga Tokarczuk’s “Tender Narrator” – a New Perspective on Ethics in Literature?

Sat9  Apr09:00am(10 mins)
Umney Lounge
Ms Renata Ingbrant


Renata Ingbrant


In her Nobel lecture on December 7 2019, Olga Tokarczuk expressed her belief in the power of literature in a world gripped by political and climate crisis. According to the Nobel laureate, humans failed to respect nature and lost their ability to perceive the world as a living whole. As a way of overcoming the global crisis, Tokarczuk envisioned a future where ecological thinking would become a necessary basis for a reconfiguration of western epistemology altogether. The author emphasised "tenderness" as a way of perceiving “the world as living, cohesive, cooperating, where all parts are mutually dependent on each other” and pointed out that “[t]he literature is built precisely to show this sensitivity to any other existence than ourselves.” The author was also critical of modern society and its self-centred literature: “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?” In response to this question, Tokarczuk presented a new concept: the mysterious, tender narrator, “in the fourth person,” who “manages to encompass the perspective of each of the characters” and even “step beyond the horizon of each of them.” Has literature power to change the world? Could Tokarczuk’s radical “tenderness” be regarded as a new perspective on ethics in literature? How does the new creative method manifest itself in her novels?