Joanna Bator was born in Wałbrzych, Poland in 1968 and studied Cultural Sciences and Philosophy in Wrocław (Breslau). After earning her doctorate with a dissertation on »Feminism, Postmodernism, and Psychoanalysis«, she worked at the Polish Academy of Sciences and taught Philosophy and Cultural Sciences at universities in Warsaw, New York, London, and Tokyo. Along with academic texts, Bator wrote pieces for »Gazeta Wyborcza«.
The experiences she wrote about while living in Japan for several years were published in 2004 in a volume of essays titled »Japoński wachlarz« (Eng. »The Japanese Fan«, 2004). Her introduction to Japanese culture and its customs grew to become a classic, for which she was honored with the Beata Pawlak Prize in 2005. In 2014 »Rekin z Parku Yoyogi« (tr: A Shark from Yoyogi Park), a collection of Japan related essays, followed. Her two-part series of novels treating several decades of the life of her birth city, »Piaskowa Góra« (2009; Eng. »Sandy Mountain«, 2009) and »Chmurdalia« (2010; tr: Cloudalia), were an international sensation, as well. The story, which begins as a family saga, not only gradually frees itself from the constraints of this genre, but also epically transcends the limits of time and space as the main protagonist Dominika leaves behind her home region, the »sandy mountain«, in search of the utopia developed in the first novel, the fantastic place named »Cloudalia«. Constant throughout are Bator’s sense of humor and her habit of describing characters from a scientist’s perspective, without lapsing into academic diction. The novel »Ciemno, prawie noc« (Dark, almost night), also set in Wałbrzych, was published in 2012. In it, the protagonist, a reporter named Alicja Tabor, conducts research on the mysterious disappearance of three children. She thereby confronts not only her own gloomy family history, but also strange events that could have their origin in the legend of a cursed princess. Once again, Bator mixes genres like the horror story and the detective story, but never descends into the ridiculous or the ironic. Instead, she earnestly explores the mechanisms of a world suffused with evil in which the demons of history can awaken at any moment.
In 2013, Bator received for this book the Nike Prize, Poland’s most important prize for literature. One year later, she was appointed the Friedrich Dürrenmatt Guest Professor for World Literature at the University of Bern. Her most recent publication is the novel »Wyspa łza« (2015; tr: Island of tears). Joanna Bator lives in Warsaw.