Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846–1946)
The fame of Sienkiewicz is now eclipsed and even aside from that it contains an element of sadness. From the very beginning the fortunes of Sienkiewicz were not of the common sort. In 1884, with a Byronic suddenness, he became recognized in the eyes of his own country and later in the eyes of the whole world as the greatest Polish writer, and there was a period between 1895 and 1910 when he won a world wide popularity unprecedented in the history of literature. He was translated into more than thirty languages. In Italy, in France, in America, and in England, not to mention Russia, this success was so intense that it was referred to as the “epidemia Sienkiewicziana.” In 1905 he received the Nobel prize for literature. The names of the heroes of Quo Vadis were given to race horses in Paris; pantomines, ballets, plays, and movies were based on his novels. Belgium smoked Quo Vadis? cigars, there are still restaurants in the United States called Quo Vadis?; and some Russian anti-Polish books were published in France under the title of “Quo Vadis Polonia?” For years in the European and American salons men had women talked in glowing terms of Sienkiewicz. French and Italian publishing companies made enormous sums from the works of Sienkiewicz which outsold those of all other authors. This financial success was rather ironic; the publishers could freely exploit that suddenly discovered vein of gold, as Sienkiewicz, being a Russian subject, was not protected by international copyright. There was an exception, however,—the excellent Bostonian Jeremiah Curtin acted decently, making a private agreement with the Polish author.
KeywordsNineteenth Century Seventeenth Century Short Story European Civilization Polish Society
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