The Extinction of Irena Rey by Jennifer Croft 

Our Rating
Author: Jennifer Croft

Category: Thriller / suspense

Book Format: Paperback / softback

Publisher: Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781761380211

RRP: $35.00

The Extinction of Irena Rey is the story of eight translators of a Nobel Prize contender, narrated by one of them, translated by another, and written by the renowned translator of an actual Nobel Prize laureate. If that sounds puzzling, the plot is a hundredfold more so. It is a tale as multilayered, enigmatic, mysterious and haunting as the primeval forest in which it’s set. A forest that, like the characters that inhabit this novel, can seem an intoxicating wonderland but harbours within its depths, vipers and deadly parasites.

In what has become a tradition, the translators assemble at a secluded hideaway deep in a forest on the border of Poland and Belarus. This is the home of their adored world-famous author Irena Rey. Here, under her stringent supervision, they will translate her new novel from Polish into their own languages. However, shortly after their arrival Irena disappears leaving them to fend for themselves. Is their author a paragon of virtue and genius or someone more sinister? Amid a spiralling descent into anarchy they struggle to establish any kind of unanimity of purpose.

In charting the escapades of this misbegotten lot, Croft draws on a myriad of themes including linguistics, climate change, the natural world and the ethics of literature and literary awards, as well as her personal experience as the Booker Prize winning translator from the Polish of Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights and other books. 

It’s a chaotic, wildly inventive journey she takes us on, veering between babes in the woods escapades, the unlikeliest of detective capers, desperate rivalries, betrayals, deceit and even murder. If you’re prepared to suspend disbelief completely for the duration, it’s an entertaining, page-turner of a ride, albeit decidedly bizarre. 

Reviewed by Anne Green




Jennifer Croft, author

Jennifer Croft is an American author, critic and translator who works from Polish, Ukrainian and Argentine Spanish.

With the author Olga Tokarczuk, she was awarded the 2018 Booker International Prize for her translation of Flights. In 2020, she was awarded the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing for Homesick, which was originally written in Spanish in 2014 and was published in Argentina under its original title, Serpientes y Escaleras.

Follow Jennifer Croft on Instagram

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