Sunday, November 11, 2018

Celebrating Polish Literature

. . . and a century of independence!
November 11, 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Celebrated in many nations as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, and in the United States as Veteran’s Day, November 11 is known as National Independence Day in Poland, where the end of the Great War meant the end of foreign occupation and the birth of Poland as a modern nation. At the time of the war, Poland had literally been wiped off the map for more than a century, its territory divided among Russia, Prussia, and Austria. When those conquering nations were defeated in the First World War, the Second Polish Republic was formed, and Poland was once again an independent nation. 

In honor of the occasion, Old Books by Dead Guys takes this opportunity to recognize the underrated literature of Poland. Though by no means an expert on the subject, OBDG does have an interest in Polish literature and has reviewed 28 books by Polish authors, with hopefully more to come in the future. Below is an annotated list of these prior Polish posts. Click on the titles below to read the full reviews. I believe with the exception of the last title on this list, all of these books are in the public domain and therefore available for free download from sources like Amazon, Project Gutenberg, and HathiTrust.


Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855)
Widely regarded as Poland’s all-time greatest poet, Mickiewicz wrote the Polish national epic Pan Tadeusz, the last great epic poem in European literature (though in English translation you are more likely to find it in prose form).

Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916)
Winner of the 1905 Nobel Prize in Literature. Sienkiewicz, one of the most Romantic of Romanticists, is best known for grand historical epics of Polish History (the With Fire and Sword trilogy) and ancient Rome (Quo Vadis), though he also wrote novels about modern Poland (In Vain).

Boleslaw Prus (1847-1912)
Probably the least-known name on this list to English-language audiences, though highly respected in his home country. In contrast to Sienkiewicz, Prus was a realist who mostly wrote about contemporary Poland, except for The Pharaoh and the Priest, which is set in ancient Egypt.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
Born Józef Theodor Konrad Korzeniowski in the Polish Ukraine. Emigrated to Britain and wrote in English. Considered to be one of the greatest writers in English literature (though to be honest, I’m not a big fan.)

Wladyslaw Reymont (1867-1925)
Winner of the 1924 Nobel Prize in Literature. A naturalist in the vein of Emile Zola, Reymont’s four-volume novel The Peasants (Polish title: Chlopi) is one of the greatest works in Polish literature.

Fiction Collections
  • Stories by Foreign Authors: Polish, Greek, Belgian, Hungarian (1898) - 4 stars
    Includes “The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwall” by Sienkiewicz, plus four more stories by authors of other nations.
  • Tales by Polish Authors, edited by Else C. M. Benecke (1915) - 4 stars
    Includes selections by Sienkiewicz, Adam Szymanski, Stefan Zeromski, and Waclaw Sieroszewski.
  • More Tales by Polish Authors, edited by Else C. M. Benecke and Marie Busch (1916) - 4 stars
    Includes selections by Prus, Reymont, Adam Szymanski, Stefan Zeromski, and Waclaw Sieroszewski.
  • Selected Polish Tales, edited by Else C.M. Benecke (1921) - 2.5 stars
    Includes selections by Prus, Reymont, Adam Szymanski, Stefan Zeromski, Juliusz Kaden-Bandrowski, and Madame Rygier-Nalkowska.

  • Poland: A Study of the Land, Literature, and People by Georg Brandes (1903) - 4.5 stars
    In this book—part travelogue, part investigative journalism, part political commentary, part literary critique—Danish literary critic Brandes chronicles four trips he made to Poland and provides an insightful portrait of life under Russian occupation.
  • The Essential Guide to Being Polish: 50 Facts & Facets of Nationhood by Anna Spysz and Marta Turek - 4 stars
    Two Polish-American journalists created this guide to all things Polish, covering both the history of the country and the state of the nation in the present day. This guide presents a wealth of information on a variety of subjects, including politics, religion, art, customs, famous Poles, and the Polish diaspora throughout the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment