The Books of Jacob

Thalia Theater in Hamburg

A great journey across seven borders, five languages and three major religions, not counting the little ones’ – that’s the sub-title of “The Books of Jacob” by Olga Tokarczuk. In her magnum opus, the Nobel Prize for Literature winner crosses geographical and religious borders and bursts through them. At the heart of the story is charismatic religious leader Jakob Frank, who is absolutely determined to bring his people, the Jews of Eastern Europe, into the modern age. His followers worship him as a Messiah, while the Catholic Church accuses him of heresy and persecutes him. He must flee to Poland, travelling through Europe, and switches from Judaism to Islam, then finally to Christianity.

He lives a multi-religious life, roaming across cities like Bucharest, Istanbul, Thessaloniki, Warsaw, Lemberg and Offenbach, speaking Hebrew, Ladino, Turkish and Polish. As a sect leader he rallies thousands of people around him and makes thousands of enemies. They all tell an unbelievable love story of this boundary breaker, who doesn’t stay long in any place or religion. Published to huge critical acclaim in Germany in 2019, the historical novel left its author facing hostility and death threats in her homeland of Poland – although it is set in the 18th century it can also be read as a commentary on today’s society.

Polish director, Ewelina Marciniak was invited to the young talent festival ‘Radical Young’ with her Thalia production of ‘The Boxer’. In 2016 she had already staged ‘The Books of Jacob’ once in Warsaw to a lot of attention, in close collaboration with the author. At the heart of this production was a female-feminist perspective. Now she wants to get stuck into the material once again: as a European story of migration, human rights, class divides and social revolution.


DIRECTION Ewelina Marciniak
CHOREOGRAPHY Dominika Knapik
STAGING Mirka Kaczmarka
COSTUME Julia Kornacka
MUSIC Jana Duszyńskiego
MUSIC LIVE Mariany Sadovska
LIGHT Max Bäßler
SOUND Benedikt Kohlmann Hendrik Glax
Christina Bellingen
Jarosław Murawski
André Szymański (Jakob Frank)
Rosa Thormeyer (Chana Frank / Ewa Frank)
Jirka Zett (Nachman ben Lewi / Arzt Ascher Rubin)
Meryem Öz (Wajgele ben Lewi)
Oda Thormeyer (Kastellanin Katarzyna Kossakowska)
Rafael Stachowiak (Antoni Kossakowski) Moliw
Stefan Stern (rabin Pinkas / Bischof Sołtyk)
Julian Greis (Benedykt Chmielowski / Hermes)
Lisa-Maria Sommerfeld (Elżbieta Drużbacka)
Anna Blomeier (Gitla Pinkasówna)
Mariana Sadovska (Jenta)
Alina-Sophie Müller / Riccarda Tolmein (child)

PHOTOS Krafft Angerer

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