Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Holy Cross Mountains

*Holy Cross Mountains. Mountain range in the east of Poland in whose Lysica vicinity (the Bald Mountain), the young protagonist Raphael Olbromski first appears, hunting with his uncle Nardzewski. Raphael inherits Nardzewski’s land at the end of the novel and returns to rebuild the war-destroyed house and tend the farm before his final engagement in the Napoleonic Wars in 1812.


Tarniny (tahr-NEE-nih). House of Raphael’s father, situated on the Sandomierian Plateau, to which Raphael returns repeatedly, following his many disgraces. Due to his father’s sternness, Tarniny is a place of punishment and labor. The house acquires a playful aspect only once, on the night of a sleigh party, at which Raphael meets Helena.


*Sandomierz (sahn-DO-myehzh). City in eastern Poland where Raphael attends school until he is expelled, following a risky nocturnal boating expedition on the Vistula River. His daring in face of the raging river provides an early glimpse of his recklessly courageous nature. Later, the adult Raphael returns as a soldier to help defend Sandomierz from an Austrian siege. When the defenders are forced to destroy the chapel of St. Jacob, which is being held by the Austrians, Raphael aids the quixotic Prince Gintult in his attempt to prevent the destruction of the holy site. Wartime and peacetime values are painfully juxtaposed as, in spite of the intervention, the chapel holding sacred ashes is destroyed.


Derslavice (dehr-swah-VEE-tzeh). Home of Raphael’s beloved Helena. Raphael’s secret nighttime escapade through snow-covered woods to steal a brief encounter with Helena in her garden ends tragically with his horse being torn apart by wolves, his own severe injuries, and his consequent...

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Ashes Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Czerwinski, E. J., ed. Dictionary of Polish Literature. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. A survey of eromski’s career, explaining his role in the Young Poland movement and commenting on the impact of his novels. Cites Ashes as one of his best, in which he speaks to his countrymen about their heroism during the Napoleonic era.

Kridl, Manfred. A Survey of Polish Literature and Culture. Translated by Olga Sherer-Virski. New York: Columbia University Press, 1956. Considers eromski the chief spokesperson for the Young Poland movement of the late nineteenth century. Provides a lengthy discussion of several important novels, including Ashes. Examines the structure of the book and comments on the significance of a number of themes.

Krzyanowski, Julian. A History of Polish Literature. Translated by Doris Ronowicz. Warsaw: Polish Scientific Publishers, 1972. Outlines eromski’s literary career and discusses the sociological influences that inspired much of his fiction. Notes that the novelist criticizes the Polish people during the Napoleonic period.

Kuk, Zenon M. “Tolstoy’s War and Peace and eromski’s Ashes as Historical Novels.” Folio: Essays on Foreign Languages and Literatures 14 (December, 1982): 1-7. Comparative study of two novels about the Napoleonic Wars, explaining how each uses materials from history to create fiction with a didactic purpose.

Miosz, Czesaw. The History of Polish Literature. London: Macmillan, 1969. Sketches the novelist’s career and comments briefly on his major fiction. Remarks on the significance of his choice of the Napoleonic era as the subject of Ashes. Notes his strengths in handling his story compassionately and in dealing with the historical tradition, but faults him for having “a penchant for melodrama.”