Poland is an Eastern European country rarely mentioned in tour books, travel guides, or the public media. Even after its significant role in world history, Poland continues to be a neglected and almost unknown country. This is unfortunate, for Polish literature is a unique reflection of the vivid imaginations and animas of Polish authors, who loved their culture and language.
Henryk Sienkiewicz was a prolific author at the turn of the twentieth century who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1905. Quo Vadis? is an epic historical novel set in first century Rome and is based on meticulous historical research conducted by the author himself. There have been many translations of Quo Vadis? into English, with one translation overshadowing the rest. Jeremiah Curtin was the only translator to have been approved by Sienkiewicz himself to translate Quo Vadis? into English.
Today’s literary world barely remembers Quo Vadis?, which was a crowning achievement in historical fiction. Into the Desert and Wilderness (W pustyni i w puszczy), an exciting novel for children and adults, is practically unknown. However, The Trilogy (Trylogia) has been considered by Polish literary critics to be the author’s magnum opus. Besides Henryk Sienkiewicz, there are many other excellent Polish authors who are known only in their native land, and are still waiting to be discovered by a wider audience of readers.
Julian Tuwim, Jan Brzechwa, and Kornel Makuszynski are all fondly remembered for their scintillating contributions to Polish literature, both poetry and prose. Julian Tuwim’s poetry for children is both witty and satirical, making every rhyming verse a pleasure to recite. Locomotive (Lokomotywa) is a collection of Tuwim’s poetry for children.
Jan Brzechwa was also an innovative Polish poet and writer of the twentieth century. His poetry and prose both for children and adults are very well known by the natives of Poland. In fact, the first line of his poem, “A Beetle” (Chrzaszcz), became a popular Polish tongue-twister: “W Szczebrzeszynie chrzaszcz brzmi w trzcinie” (“In Szczebrzeszyn a beetle buzzes in the reed”). It is famous for being very hard to pronounce even by adult native speakers.
Kornel Makuszynski wrote a comic series for children called Koziolek Matolek, which is popular to this day in Poland. Endearing and with charming illustrations by Marian Walentynowicz, Makuszynski’s narrative about a goat named Koziolek Matolek has an underlying satirical tone. This comic series is comprised of four volumes in total.