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Henryk Sienkiewicz

Born Henryk Adam Aleksander Pius Sienkiewicz
May 5, 1846(1846-05-05)
Wola Okrzejska, Congress Poland
Died November 15, 1916 (aged 70)
Vevey, Switzerland
Occupation Novelist
Nationality Polish
Period 19th-20th century
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature

Henryk Adam Aleksander Pius Sienkiewicz (Polish pronunciation: [ˈxɛnrɨk ˈadam alɛˈksandɛr ˈpʲus ɕɛnˈkʲevʲitʂ]; also known as "Litwos" [ˈlitfɔs]; May 5, 1846–November 15, 1916) was a Polish journalist and Nobel Prize-winning novelist. A Polish szlachcic (noble) of the Oszyk coat of arms, he was one of the most popular Polish writers at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1905 for his "outstanding merits as an epic writer."

Born into an impoverished gentry family in the Podlasie village of Wola Okrzejska, in Russian-ruled Poland, Sienkiewicz wrote historical novels set during the Rzeczpospolita (Polish Republic, or Commonwealth). His works were noted for their negative portrayal of the Teutonic Order in The Teutonic Knights (Krzyżacy), which was remarkable as a significant portion of his readership lived under German rule. Many of his novels were first serialized in newspapers, and even today are still in print. In Poland, he is best known for his historical novels "With Fire and Sword", "The Deluge", and "Fire in the Steppe" (The Trilogy) set during the 17th-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, while internationally he is best known for Quo Vadis, set in Nero's Rome. Quo Vadis has been filmed several times, most notably the 1951 version.

Sienkiewicz was meticulous in attempting to recreate the authenticity of historical language. In his Trilogy, for instance, he had his characters use the Polish language as he imagined it was spoken in the seventeenth century (in reality it was far more similar to 19th-century Polish than he imagined). In The Teutonic Knights, which relates to the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, he even had his characters speak a variety of medieval Polish which he recreated in part from archaic expressions then still common among the highlanders of Podhale.

In 1881, Sienkiewicz married Maria Szetkiewicz (1854-1885). They had two children, Henryk Józef (1882-1959) and Jadwiga (1883-1969).



Sienkiewicz monument atop Sienkiewicz Mound at Okrzeja. At left is the writer's family's village, Wola Okrzejska.

Sienkiewicz was born in Wola Okrzejska, a village in eastern Poland's Podlasie region, that was part of the Russian Empire at the time. His was an impoverished gentry family, on his father's side deriving from Tartars who had settled in Lithuania.[citation needed] His family used the coat of arms Oszyk. His parents were Józef Sienkiewicz (1813–1896) and Stefania (née Cieciszowska), 1820-1873). Wola Okrzejska belonged to the writer's maternal grandmother, Felicjana Cieciszowska. He was baptized in the neighbouring village of Okrzeja in a church founded by his great-grandmother. His family moved several times and in the end settled in Warsaw in 1861.

In 1858, Henryk began secondary school in Warsaw. He did not receive very good grades but he was good at liberal arts. Because of the hard financial times at that time, the nineteen-year-old Sienkiewicz took up a job as a tutor in the Weyher family in Płońsk. During this period he probably wrote his first novel, Ofiara (Victim). He also worked on his publicized novel Na marne (In Vain). In addition, he finished his extramural classes in secondary school and in 1866 received the secondary school diploma. According to his parents' wishes, he passed the examination to the medical department at Warsaw University. After some time, he resigned and took up law studies. He ended up transferring to the Institute of Philology and History where he acquired a thorough knowledge of literature and Old Polish. In 1867 he made his first attempts in literature and wrote a rhyming piece Sielanka Młodości, which he submitted for publication in Tygodnik Ilustrowany (Illustrated Weekly) but it was rejected. In 1869 Sienkiewicz debuted as a journalist. Przegląd Tygodniowy (The Weekly Review) printed his review of a play, and Tygodnik Ilustrowany printed his essay about Mikołaj Sęp-Sarzyński. Sienkiewicz also wrote for Gazeta Polska (The Polish Gazette) and Niwa under the pen name "Litwos". In 1873 he started to write a column "Bez tytułu" ("Without a Title") in Gazeta Polska and in 1875 the series called "Chwila obecna" ("The Present Moment"). From 1874 he took care of the literary section of Niwa.

He wrote the novel Na marne (In Vain, 1871) and then Humoreski z teki Woroszyłły, Stary Sługa (The Old Servant, 1875), Hania (1876) and Selim Mirza (1877). The last three works are referred to as the Little Trilogy. Sienkiewicz also visited his relative Jadwiga Łuszczewska (known as "Deotyma") and the actress Helena Modrzejewska, as their dinner parties were very popular.

In 1876 he went to the United States with Helena Modrzejewska. He stayed for some time in California. During this period he wrote Listy z podróży (Letters From a Journey), which were published in Gazeta Polska and received wide recognition. He also wrote Szkice węglem (Sketches in Charcoal) in 1877. The trip to the USA inspired him to write the following works: Komedia z pomyłek (A Comedy of Errors, 1878), Przez stepy (1879), W krainie złota (1880), Za chlebem (For Bread, 1880), Latarnik (Lighthouse Keeper, 1881) Wspomnienia z Maripozy (1882), and Sachem (1883).

In 1878 Henryk Sienkiewicz returned to Europe. First, he stayed in London and then went to Paris for a year. In France he had got a chance to familiarize himself with naturalism, a new trend in literature. In the article "Z Paryża" ("From Paris"), written in 1879, he expressed a positive opinion on this trend. He stated that, "For a novel naturalism was in fact a brilliant, indispensable and perhaps the only step forward." Two years later he changed his mind and became more critical about this movement. He expressed his opinions on naturalism and writing in general in the following published works: O naturaliźmie w powieści (Naturalism in the Novel, 1881), O powieści historycznej (Historical novel, 1889), and Listy o Zoli (Letters about Zola, 1893).

His stay in America and his letter-writing published in Polish newspapers resulted in national recognition and interest. Bolesław Prus in his article entitled "Co p. Sienkiewicz wyrabia z piękniejszą połową Warszawy", published in Kurier Warszawski in 1880, nicely showed the popularity of the writer. "As he was back from America, almost every lady took tall and handsome men for Sienkiewicz.(...) Finally, when I noticed that every man has got hair like Sienkiewicz and all of the young men, one by one, grow a royal beard and try to have a statuesque and swarthy face, I realised that I wanted to meet him personally.(...) From the corner where I sit, I can see that the room is almost exclusively crowded with the fair sex. Some men, who were there to amuse ladies or to write reports, spent so much time in the company of women that they started to talk in the feminine.

Sienkiewicz's family coat-of-arms, Oszyk, was a variant of this Łabędź (Swan) coat-of-arms.

In 1879 in Lviv, Sienkiewicz gave a lecture entitled Z Nowego Jorku do Kalifornii. In 1880 at the Bazar hotel in Poznań he read his novel Za chlebem, and later in Warsaw he read two works on naturalism in literature. In Szczawnica, on his way back to Lviv in 1879, he read a work about his stay in America. This was also the place where he saw his future wife, Maria Szetkiewicz, for the first time. When he discovered that the whole Szetkiewicz family was going to Venice, Sienkiewicz went there too and met Maria personally and they got married on 18 August 1881, on Theatre Square in a church which was a property of the Community of Canonesses (the church no longer exists). They had two children, Henryk Józef and Jadwiga Maria. The marriage did not last long, however, because Maria died on 18 August 1885. In 1882 he worked with Słowo (a daily newspaper with a tendency to conservatism and nobility). In the beginning, he was the editor-in-chief. He also wrote a drama Na jedną kartę which was later staged in Lviv and Warsaw (1879-1881)

In 1880 Sienkiewicz wrote a historical novella, Niewola tatarska (Tartar Captivity), and began work on another historical novel, Ogniem i Mieczem (With Fire and Sword). In a letter of February 1, 1884, to Stanisław Smolka, editor of the Kraków newspaper Czas, Sienkiewicz wrote: "With regard to the great novel, it will probably be titled Wilcze gniazdo (The Wolf's Nest). It takes place during the reign of King Jan Kazimierz, during the Cossack revolt." The novel Wilcze gniazdo appeared in installments in Słowo from May 2, 1883, to March 1, 1884, under the title Ogniem i mieczem (With Fire and Sword). It also ran simultaneously in the Kraków newspaper, Czas.

With Fire and Sword was enthusiastically received by readers (as were the next two volumes of the Trilogy) and won national recognition for the author . Many readers wrote to Sienkiewicz, asking about the next adventures of their favorite characters. In 1879 a street in Zbarazh (one of the settings in With Fire and Sword) was named after Sienkiewicz; in 1900 its citizens would not permit building works on the church grounds, believing that it was the place where Pan Podbipięta (a fictional character in With Fire and Sword) was buried. The novel was also adapted for the stage. In 1884 Jacek Malczewski exhibited tableaux vivants inspired by With Fire and Sword. The novel also garnered some criticism. It was pointed out, not without reason, that some of the historical facts and events were misrepresented and distorted.

He began writing the second volume of his Trilogy – Potop ("The Deluge"); according to Sienkiewicz the title was supposed to indicate the deluge of masses of people trying to stop the Swedish invasion.[citation needed] Potop was printed in Słowo (from 23 December 1884 to 2 September 1886). The novel quickly became a best-seller and it established Sienkiewicz's position in society. While Sienkiewicz was writing Potop, his wife, Maria Szetkiewicz, died of tuberculosis so it was a difficult time for the writer. After Maria's death, Sienkiewicz went to Constantinople (through Bucharest and Varna) from where he was writing reports. After his return to Warsaw the third volume of the Trilogy, Pan Wołodyjowski (Fire in the Steppe) appeared. The novel was published in Słowo from May 1887 to May 1888.

The Trilogy made Henryk Sienkiewicz the most widely read and known Polish novelist. Stefan Żeromski wrote in his Diaries: "In the Sandomierz area I witnessed myself that everybody, even those who usually do not read, were asking about The Deluge." Sienkiewicz was given 15 thousand roubles in recognition of his achievements from an unknown admirer who signed himself as Michał Wołodyjowski (the name of the character in the Trilogy). Sienkiewicz used this money to open the scholarship fund (named after his wife) designed for artists endangered by tuberculosis.


In 1888 Sienkiewicz went to Spain. In 1890 he involved himself in organizing the Mickiewicz Year. At the end of 1890 he went to Africa which resulted in the writing of Listy z Afryki (Letters from Africa). In 1891 a book edition of the novel Bez dogmatu (Without Dogma) was published. Earlier, from 1889 to 1890, the novel was printed in installments in Słowo. In 1892 Sienkiewicz signed an agreement for another novel - Rodzina Połanieckich (Children of the Soil), and the book came out in print in 1895. In the summer of 1894 in Zakopane, Sienkiewicz introduced some fragments of his new novel Krzyżacy (The Teutonic Knights, or "The Knights of the Cross").

In 1893 Sienkiewicz began preparations for his next novel, Quo Vadis. The period at the turn of the 1880s and 1890s was associated with intensive work on several novels. Maria Romanowska, the step-daughter of a wealthy Odessan named Wołodkowicz, entered the writer's life and Sienkiewicz and Romanowska became engaged in that city. Their wedding took place on November 11, 1893, but the bride soon left the author and Sienkiewicz obtained papal consent to dissolution of the marriage.

In February 1895 Sienkiewicz wrote the first chapters of Quo Vadis, for which he had been gathering materials since 1893. The novel started appearing in print in March 1895 in several Polish newspapers: in Gazeta Polska in Warsaw, Czas in Cracow and in Dziennik Poznański in Poznań (Greater Poland region). It stopped appearing at the end of February 1896. The book edition then appeared very quickly. The novel gained recognition and became extremely popular all over Europe. It was translated into many languages, including Arabic and Japanese. The popularity of Quo Vadis at that time was supported by the fact that the horses competing in Grand Prix de Paris were given names of the characters from the book. The novel was repeatedly adapted and put on the stage. There was also an opera made on the basis of the book. In 1913 Quo Vadis was screened and the novel was filmed several more times.

Sienkiewicz's residence at Oblęgorek[1]

In 1900 Sienkiewicz celebrated an anniversary of his artistic work. On the occasion the Polish people presented him with an estate at Oblęgorek and he went on to open a school for children there. In the same year the Jagiellonian University awarded Sienkiewicz an honorary doctorate.

Sienkiewicz involved himself in social matters. In 1901 he made an appeal in a cause of children in Września. In 1906 he called on his fellow countrymen in the USA to help starving people in the Kingdom of Poland. In 1904 he married his niece, Maria Babska.

In 1905 he won a Nobel Prize for lifetime achievement as an epic writer. It is often erroneously said that Sienkiewicz received his Nobel Prize for Quo vadis. He actually received it "for his outstanding merits as an epic writer" although Quo vadis perhaps brought him the widest international recognition.[1][2] In the acceptance speech Sienkiewicz said that this honour was particularly valuable for a son of Poland, saying "She was pronounced dead - yet here is a proof that She lives on". He also added, "She was pronounced defeated - and here is proof that She is victorious".

Sienkiewicz's tomb, St. John's Cathedral, Warsaw

He wrote a novel, Na polu chwały (On the Field of Glory), that was intended as the beginning of a trilogy. In 1910 his novel for young people, W pustyni i w puszczy (In Desert and Wilderness) appeared in installments in the newspaper, Kurier Warszawski.

After the outbreak of World War I, Sienkiewicz left for Switzerland. Together with Ignacy Paderewski he established the Vevey Swiss General Committee to Aid Victims of the War. He died on November 15, 1916, in Vevey, where he was buried. In 1924, after Poland had regained its independence, the writer's ashes were repatriated to Warsaw, Poland, and placed in the crypt of St. John's Cathedral.

Sienkiewicz was a knight of the French Légion d'honneur.



  • Named after Sienkiewicz, in Poland, are streets in Warsaw, Kraków, Poznań, Kielce, and Białystok's Osiedle Sienkiewicza; city parks in Wrocław and Łódź; and many schools in Poland. There are standing statues of Sienkiewicz in Częstochowa and Słupsk, and a large seated statue in Warsaw's Łazienki Park.
  • Many of Sienkiewicz's works have been translated into Hebrew and were popular in the 1940s among Mandatory Palestine's Jewish community, many of whom were immigrants and refugees from Poland, and also during Israel's early decades. Often, parents who had in their youth liked the books in the original Polish, introduced the translations to their children who did not know Polish. However, in later generations the books' popularity in Israel has waned.

See also

Polish 500,000-złoty banknote (1990) featuring an elderly Sienkiewicz


External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A man who leaves memoirs, whether well or badly written, provided they be sincere, renders a service to future psychologists and writers, giving them not only a faithful picture, but likewise human documents that may be relied upon.

Henryk Adam Aleksander Pius Oszyk-Sienkiewicz (5 May 184615 November 1916) was a Nobel Prize-winning Polish novelist, most famous for his novel Quo Vadis.



Quo Vadis (1895)

Quo Vadis : A Narrative of the Time of Nero (1895) as translated from the Polish by Jeremiah Curtin
My jests do not prevent me from thinking at times that in truth there is only one deity, eternal, creative, all-powerful, Venus Genetrix. She brings souls together; she unites bodies and things.
Eros called the world out of chaos. Whether he did well is another question; but, since he did so, we should recognize his might...
As light comes from the sun, so does happiness come from love.
One may not believe in our gods, but it is possible to love them...
  • Pliny declares, as I hear, that he does not believe in the gods, but he believes in dreams; and perhaps he is right. My jests do not prevent me from thinking at times that in truth there is only one deity, eternal, creative, all-powerful, Venus Genetrix. She brings souls together; she unites bodies and things. Eros called the world out of chaos. Whether he did well is another question; but, since he did so, we should recognize his might, though we are free not to bless it.
    • Petronius, as depicted in the novel, speaking to Marcus Vinicius, in Ch. 1
  • Life deserves laughter, hence people laugh at it.
    • Petronius, in Ch. 2
  • Riches, glory, power are mere smoke, vanity! The rich man will find a richer than himself; the greater glory of another will eclipse a man who is famous; a strong man will be conquered by a stronger. But can Cæsar himself, can any god even, experience greater delight or be happier than a simple mortal at the moment when at his breast there is breathing another dear breast, or when he kisses beloved lips? Hence love makes us equal to the gods, O Lygia.
    • Marcus Vinicius to Lygia, in Ch. 2
  • Not Nero, but God, rules the world.
    • Lygia to Marcus Vinicius, in Ch. 2
  • I consider that in dialectics I am the equal of Socrates. As to women, I agree that each has three or four souls, but none of them a reasoning one.
    • Petronius to Marcus Vinicius, in Ch. 3
  • O Petronius, thou hast seen what endurance and comfort that religion gives in misfortune, how much patience and courage before death; so come and see how much happiness it gives in ordinary, common days of life. People thus far did not know a God whom man could love, hence they did not love one another; and from that came their misfortune, for as light comes from the sun, so does happiness come from love. Neither lawgivers nor philosophers taught this truth, and it did not exist in Greece or Rome; and when I say, not in Rome, that means the whole world. The dry and cold teaching of the Stoics, to which virtuous people rally, tempers the heart as a sword is tempered, but it makes it indifferent rather than better.
  • Whoso loves beauty is unable for that very reason to love deformity. One may not believe in our gods, but it is possible to love them...
    • Petronius, Ch. 72
  • No God has promised me immortality; hence no surprise meets me. At the same time thou art mistaken, Vinicius, in asserting that only thy God teaches man to die calmly. No. Our world knew, before thou wert born, that when the last cup was drained, it was time to go, — time to rest, — and it knows yet how to do that with calmness. Plato declares that virtue is music, that the life of a sage is harmony. If that be true, I shall die as I have lived, — virtuously.
    • Petronius, Ch. 72
  • Rome stuffs its ears when it hears thee; the world reviles thee. I can blush for thee no longer, and I have no wish to do so. The howls of Cerberus, though resembling thy music, will be less offensive to me, for I have never been the friend of Cerberus, and I need not be ashamed of his howling.
    • Letter of Petronius to Nero, Ch. 73

Without Dogma (1891)

I know that even the meanest person has still at his disposition high-sounding words wherewith to mask his real character.
Bez dogmatu (1891); translated by Iza Young as Without Dogma : A Novel of Modern Poland (1893) - Full text online
  • A man who leaves memoirs, whether well or badly written, provided they be sincere, renders a service to future psychologists and writers, giving them not only a faithful picture, but likewise human documents that may be relied upon.
    • Leon Ploszowski in his first entry in his diary, "Rome, 9 January"
  • I know from experience that to one who thinks much and feels deeply, it often seems that he has only to put down his thoughts and feelings in order to produce something altogether out of the common; yet as soon as he sets to work he falls into a certain mannerism of style and common phraseology; his thoughts do not come spontaneously, and one might almost say that it is not the mind that directs the pen, but the pen leads the mind into common, empty artificiality.
    • "Rome, 9 January"
  • My position is such that there is no necessity for me to enter into competition with struggling humanity. As to expensive and ruinous pleasures, I am a sceptic who knows how much they are worth, or rather, knows that they are not worth anything.
    • "Rome, 9 January"
  • I know that even the meanest person has still at his disposition high-sounding words wherewith to mask his real character.
    • 11 July
  • Aniela knows perfectly that I live for her only, exist through her; that all my thoughts belong to her, my actions have only her in view; that she is to me an issue of life and death; and in spite of all that she calmly decides to go away. Whether I should perish or beat my head against the wall, she never so much as considered. She will be more at ease when she ceases to see me writhing like a beetle stuck on a pin; she will be no longer afraid of my kissing her feet furtively, or startling that virtuous conscience. How can she hesitate when such excellent peace can be got, at so small a price as cutting somebody's throat! Thoughts like these spun across my brain by thousands.
    • 11 July
  • Aniela knew very well that her departure would be to me a more dangerous catastrophe than a wound on my head or the loss of an arm or leg; and yet she did not hesitate a moment. I was perfectly aware that it was all her doing. She wanted to be near her husband, and what would become of me was not taken into account.
    • 11 July
  • I often think that Aniela does me a great wrong, not to say that she calls things by wrong names. She considers my love a mere earthly feeling, an infatuation of the senses. I do not deny that it is composed of various threads, but there are among them some as purely ideal as if spun of poetry. Very often my senses are lulled to sleep, and I love her as one loves only in early youth. Then the second self within me mocks, and says derisively: "I had no idea you could love like a schoolboy or a romanticist!" Yet such is the fact. I may be ridiculous, but I love her thus, and it is not an artificial feeling.
    • 12 July
  • I felt within me a boundless wealth of this almost mystic love, and a belief that this earthly chrysalis would come forth in another world a butterfly, which, detached from all earthly conditions would soar from planet to planet, till it became united to the spirit of All-Life. For the first time the thought crossed my mind that Aniela and I may pass away as bodies, but our love will survive and even be our immortality. "Who knows," I thought, "whether this be not the only existing form of immortality?" — because I felt distinctly that there is something everlasting in my feeling, quite distinct from the ever changing phenomena of life.
    • 15 July
  • There is now resentment in my love. The thought is troubling my mind that she has a narrow heart, and that in this lies the secret of her unyieldingness. To-day, when I come to think it over more calmly, I go back to the conviction that she has some feeling for me, composed of gratitude, pity, and memories of the past; but it has no active power, cannot rise above prejudice, — even to the avowal of its existence. It does not respect itself, hides, is ashamed of itself, and in comparison with mine is as the mustard-seed to those Alps which surround us. From Aniela one may expect that she will restrict it rather than let it grow. It is of no use to hope or watch for anything from her; that conviction makes me very wretched.
    • 2 August
  • If it be a great misfortune to love another man's wife, be she ever so commonplace, it is an infinitely greater misfortune to love a virtuous woman. There is something in my relations to Aniela of which I never heard or read; there is no getting out of it, no end. A solution, whether it be a calamity or the fulfilment of desire, is something, but this is only an enchanted circle. If she remain immovable and I do not cease loving her, it will be an everlasting torment, and nothing else. And I have the despairing conviction that neither of us will give way.
    • 4 August
  • A time will come when under changed circumstances she will recover her beauty. I thought of it to-day and at once asked myself what would be our relations towards each other in the future, and whether it would make any change. I am certain it will not. I know already how it feels to live without her, and shall not do anything which might make her cast me off.
    • 9 November
  • In regard to this I have no illusion whatever. I have already said that since she changed our mutual relations into ideal feelings, they have become dear to her. Let it remain thus, provided they be dear to her.
    • 9 November
  • It is an altogether wrong idea that the modern product of civilization is less susceptible to love. I sometimes think it is the other way.
    • 10 November
  • Formerly character proved a strong curb for passions; in the present there is not much strength in character, and it grows less and less because of the prevailing scepticism, which is a decomposing element. It is like a bacillus breeding in the human soul; it destroys the resistant power against the physiological craving of the nerves, of nerves diseased. The modern man is conscious of everything, and cannot find a remedy against anything.
    • 10 November
  • I love her now beyond all words; she sees it, — she reads it in my eyes, and in my whole manner towards her. When I succeed in cheering her up, or call forth her smiles, I am beside myself with delight. There is at present in my love something of the attachment of the faithful servant who loves his mistress. I often feel as if I ought to humble myself before her, as if my proper place were at her feet. She never can grow ugly, changed, or old to me. I accept everything, agree to everything, and worship her as she is.
    • 11 November
  • Kromitzki is dead! The catastrophe has come upon us like a thunderbolt. God keep Aniela from any harm in her present state.
    • 12 November
  • There is within us a moral instinct which forbids us to rejoice at the death of even an enemy.
    • 12 November
  • It is not merely a question of sorrow after the death of a beloved being, but of the reproaches she will apply to herself, thinking that if she had loved him more he might have clung more to his life. Empty, trivial, and unjust reproaches, for she did everything that force of will could command, — she spurned my love and remained pure and faithful to him. But one must know that soul full of scruples as I know it, to gauge the depth of misery into which the news would plunge her, and how she would suspect herself, — asking whether his death did not correspond to some deeply hidden desire on her part for freedom and happiness; whether it did not gratify those wishes she had scarcely dared to form.
    • 13 November
  • Anxiety prepares the organism badly for an ordeal which even under more favorable circumstances would not be an easy thing to bear.
    • The doctor, to Leon, 15 November
  • Let there be at once also the end of the world! O God! if that is to be my punishment, I swear I will go away, never to see her again in life, — only save her!
    • 17 November
  • I should be blind if I did not perceive that some power as strong as the universe is parting us. What this power is, what it is called, I do not know. I know only that if I knelt down, beat my head on the floor, prayed, and cried out for mercy, I might move a mountain sooner than move that power. As nothing now could part me from Aniela but death, she must die. This may be very logical, but I do not consent to part from her.
    • 20 November
  • Do not be afraid, Leon, — I feel much better; but in case anything should happen to me I wanted to leave you something to remember me by. Perhaps I ought not to say it so soon after my husband's death; but as I might die, I wanted to tell you now that I loved you very, very much.
    • Anelia, to Leon, 21 November
  • Aniela died this morning.
    • 23 November
  • I might have been your happiness, and became your misfortune. I am the cause of your death, for if I had been a different man, if I had not been wanting in all principles, all foundations of life, there would not have come upon you the shocks that killed you.
    • Rome, 5 December
  • I follow you — because I must. Do you think I am not afraid of death? I am afraid because I do not know what there is, and see only darkness without end; which makes me recoil. I do not know whether there be nothingness, or existence without space and time; perhaps some midplanetary wind carries the spiritual monad from star to star to implant it in an ever-renewing existence. I do not know whether there be immense restlessness, or a peace so perfect as only Omnipotence and Love can bestow on us. But since you have died through my "I do not know," how could I remain here — and live?
    The more I fear, the more I do not know, — the more I cannot let you go alone; I cannot, Aniela mine, — and I follow. Together we shall sink into nothingness, or together begin a new life; and here below where we have suffered let us be buried in oblivion.
    • Rome, 5 December

Quotes about Sienkiewicz

The greatest genius assimilates unconsciously the best with which it comes in contact, and by a subtle chemistry of its own makes new combinations.
  • Of the man Sienkiewicz there is little to be obtained. Like all great creative geniuses, he is so completely identified with his work that even while his personality lives in his creations it eludes them. He offers us no confidences concerning himself, no opinions or prejudices. He does not divert the reader with personalities. He sets before us certain groups of men and women, whom certainly he knows and loves, and has lived among.
    • Publisher's Preface to Without Dogma : A Novel of Modern Poland (1893), published by Little, Brown, and Company
  • Neither realism nor romance alone will ever with its small plummet sound to its depths the human heart or its mystery; yet from the union of the two much perhaps might come.
    We believe that just here lies the value of the novels of Henryk Sienkiewicz. He has worked out the problem of the modern novel so as to satisfy the most ardent realist, but he has worked it out upon great and broadly human lines. For him facts are facts indeed; but facts have souls as well as bodies. His genius is analytic, but also imaginative and constructive; it is not forever going upon botanizing excursions. He paints things and thoughts human.
    The greatest genius assimilates unconsciously the best with which it comes in contact, and by a subtle chemistry of its own makes new combinations. Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe, and the realists, as well as all the forces of nature, have helped to make Henryk Sienkiewicz; yet he is not any one of them. He is never merely imitative. Originality and imaginative fire, a style vivid and strong, large humor, a profound pathos, a strong feeling for nature, and a deep reverence for the forms and the spirit of religion, the breath of the true cosmopolitan united with the intense patriotism of the Pole, a great creative genius, — these are the most striking qualities of the work of this modern novelist, who has married Romance to Realism.
    • Publisher's Preface to Without Dogma : A Novel of Modern Poland (1893), published by Little, Brown, and Company

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HENRYK SIENKIEWICZ (1846-), Polish novelist, was born in 1846 at Wola Okrzeska near Lukow, in the province of Siedlce, Russian Poland. He studied philosophy at Warsaw University. His first work, a humorous novel entitled A Prophet in his own Country, appeared in 1872. In 1876 Sienkiewicz visited America, and under the pseudonym of "Litwos," contributed an account of his travels to the Gazeta Polska, a Warsaw newspaper. Thenceforward his talent as a writer of historical novels won rapid recognition, and his best-known romance, Quo Vadis? a study of Roman society under Nero, has been translated into more than thirty languages. Originally published in 1895, Quo Vadis? was first translated into English in 1896, and dramatized versions of it have been produced in England, the United States, France and Germany. Remarkable powers of realistic description, and a strong religious feeling which at times borders upon mysticism, characterize the best work of Sienkiewicz. Hardly inferior to Quo Vadis? in popularity, and superior in literary merit, is the trilogy of novels describing 17th-century society in Poland during the wars with the Cossacks, Turks and Swedes. This trilogy comprises Ogniem i mieczem (" With Fire and Sword," London, 1890, 1892 and 1895), Potop (" The Deluge," Boston, Mass., 1891) and Pan Wołodyjowski (" Pan Michael," London, 1893). Among other very successful novels and collections of tales which have been translated into English are Bez Dogmatu (" Without Dogma," London, 1893; Toronto, 1899), Janko muzykant: nowele (" Yanko the Musician and other Stories," Boston, Mass., 1893), Krzyzacy (" The Knight of the Cross," numerous British and American versions), Hania (" Hania," London, 1897) and Ta Trzecia (" The Third Woman," New York, 1898). Sienkiewicz lived much in Cracow and Warsaw, and for a time edited the Warsaw newspaper Slowo; he also travelled in England, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Africa and the East, and published a description of his journeys in Africa. In 1905 he received the Nobel prize for literature.

A German edition of his collected works was published at Graz (1906, &c.), and his biography was written in Polish by P. Chmnielowski (Lemberg, 1901) and J. Nowinski (Warsaw, 1901).

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