Soon after winning the Nobel prize in Literature last October, Olga Tokarczuk dropped into a hardware store with visions of buying some candles. Instead, she was promptly mobbed.

“People started coming up to me, touching me, hugging me. Someone started crying. Everyone was looking at me and it was horrible. It was also really nice, of course, but after a bit I got scared,” the Polish writer recalls wryly. Keeping a low profile since then has not been easy. “Recently we went to a shop and I disguised myself. I let my hair down, put on a beret, put on sunglasses. It was before Christmas and I was buying walnuts, and a lady came up to me and asked: ‘Mrs Olga Tokarczuk?’ That broke me down completely.”

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