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Tokarczuk was to receive a doctor honoris causa of the University of Wrocław as early as last November. However, the ceremony had to be postponed due to the Nobel Prize winner’s minor indisposition. It has been postponed to 1 June – not only Children’s Day, but also the day of Tokarczuk’s latest book premiere – “Empuzjon”.

– By the end of last year, Olga Tokarczuk’s books had been translated into 45 languages. They were published by 114 publishers. Her texts have been printed in nearly two hundred anthologies and literary magazines. They were translated by 166 translators. The Nobel Prize winner can boast 388 foreign editions, including 275 paper editions, e-books, books published in Braille or audiobooks – emphasised the Dean of the Faculty of Letters, Professor Arkadiusz Lewicki.

Arkadiusz Lewicki’s entire speech:

In turn, Professor Jan Sobczyk, Acting Rector of the University of Wrocław, referred to the book published today, the action of which takes place in Sokołowsko in Lower Silesia at the beginning of the 20th century. Sobczyk mentioned that Tokarczuk’s book is a kind of reference to Thomas Man’s The Magic Mountain.

– In the novel Empuzjon, the characters engage in disputes: who is man and what does his sexuality consist in. Today, such a discussion would probably involve a psychologist, biologist or biochemist wondering to what extent man is the sum of biochemical processes. Perhaps also a physicist. Such a situation would vividly resemble what a university is today. The meaning and value of a university lies in the fact that different academic disciplines are present in it. How important is the interweaving and complementing of their cognitive perspectives, close ties, mutual discussions.

The entire speech by the Acting Rector of UWr Prof. Jan Sobczyk:

The honorary doctor of the University of Wrocław herself admitted that she is not a “man of science” and that the only scientific work she wrote was her master’s dissertation.

– I suffered (during my studies) from a certain ailment: a persistent, chronic and recurring excess of imagination that resulted in constant distraction. I was happiest going to boring and intricate lectures. On them I fell into a wonderful state, when the distraction turned into unexpected strings of associations, shreds of narratives, images and eventually ideas. So far I have found the boring lecture to be one of the most inspiring creative writing techniques.

The most important issues in the speech of the honorary doctor of Wrocław University were Ukrainian:

– But now I too often lack the words to name what I experience. In the roar of the cannon, words become inaudible. In the face of violence, death, the imagination suffers. This lack of words disturbs me greatly. I read reports, syntheses and analyses, interviews and expert forecasts. I am grasping at other people’s words to understand this irrational eruption of death in Ukraine invaded by Russia. As a writer, I capitulate. I can’t name it because I can’t understand it. Today, every celebration, even the most joyous, takes place in the shadow of a war that is taking place several hundred kilometres to the east of where we are, and we must not forget it.

Tokarczuk stressed that the war in Ukraine is also “our war” and that humanity is fighting in it not only for human freedom, for a sense of security, for the right to joy and a dignified life for Ukrainians. That there is also a kind of fight for libraries, for books without censorship, for freedom of speech and real information. For free universities, science and free imagination.

The entire speech by Olga Tokarczuk:

Below is the entire speech by Olga Tokarczuk, a doctor honoris causa of the University of Wrocław:

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Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, thank you for coming here to accompany me in receiving this honour, because I am really very happy and proud to receive such a great distinction as an honorary doctorate of the University of Wrocław.

I am not a scientist, I have never systematically explored the visible phenomena of this world, nor have I used empirical tools to learn about reality. The only time I made a hypothesis and verified it empirically was when I was working on my master’s dissertation in psychology. For we were taught that only this way of knowing the world and its phenomena, based on empirics, logic and reason, would protect us from falsehood and manipulation. It was certainly right.

However, I suffered from an ailment: a persistent, chronic and recurring excess of imagination that resulted in constant distraction. I was happiest going to boring and intricate lectures. On them I fell into a wonderful state, when the distraction turned into unexpected strings of associations, shreds of narratives, images and eventually ideas. So far I have found the boring lecture to be one of the most inspiring creative writing techniques.

I think writers’ minds work on a particular basis. They intensely synthesise all the information and intuitively know and try to describe the world as a whole, as a network of interactions in which each human and non-human being has its unique and unrepeatable role. In this ognostic – as I have called it – space it becomes clear how we are variously interconnected. Not only the most obvious ties, such as those of kinship or inheritance, but various other communities: languages, cultures, spaces, ideas, tastes, intuitions, emotions, and even those we are not yet able to know. In what I write, I am constantly trying to trace these connections and it gives me great satisfaction.

But now I too often lack the words to name what I experience. In the roar of the cannon, words become inaudible. In the face of violence, death, the imagination suffers. This lack of words disturbs me greatly. I read reports, syntheses and analyses, interviews and expert forecasts. I am grasping at other people’s words to understand this irrational eruption of death in Ukraine invaded by Russia. As a writer, I capitulate. I can’t name it because I can’t understand it. Today, every celebration, even the most joyous, takes place in the shadow of a war that is taking place several hundred kilometres to the east of where we are, and we must not forget it.

We must not forget how bravely and heroically the Ukrainians are defending themselves against the inhuman actions of the Russian army. This immensity of suffering, the uncontrollable outburst of hatred that is escalating before our eyes, the anachronistic overdone rhetoric pulled out of date to support the criminal motivations of the aggressor. Finally, the overt return of fascism disguised in a Russian uniform. For years and perhaps for the rest of our lives they will shape our reality. No matter how this war ends. I hope not with a revoked victory for the Ukrainians. Every night when I go to bed I am grateful to have my own bed and a roof over my head. But my imagination, to which I owe so much, does not allow me to sleep peacefully. We have to get over this lack of words. This is our war sickness. Even if we watch the war from afar, we participate in it anyway, from a distance. I would like us to regain our strength with words and to feel that this war is our war and that we are fighting in it not only for human freedom, for a sense of security, for the right to joy and a dignified life for Ukrainians. That we are also fighting for libraries, for uncensored books, for freedom of speech and real information, for free universities, science and free imagination.

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Presentation of the honorary doctorate (presented by prof. Marcin Wodziński):