Henryk Sienkiewicz Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Poland’s greatest novelist was born on May 5, 1846, near Lukow, in Russian Poland, of a family that belonged to the country gentry. Educated by a tutor who shared his interest in history with his charge, Henryk Adam Alexander Pius Sienkiewicz (shehn-KYEHV-eech) attended the University of Warsaw. There, as one of the Young Positivist admirers of Auguste Comte, he became convinced that all knowledge can be observed through the human senses, including not only colors and sounds but also their interrelationship. Although he and the other Positivists did not follow their master in scorning the microscope as an attempt to peer beyond human observation, they were interested in the how, rather than the why, of changes. This group largely revolutionized Poland’s literary life following the 1863 revolt against Russia. Then, and throughout his life, Sienkiewicz was noted for his hatred of Russia.

Motivated by his anti-Russian feelings as well as by a spirit of adventure, he emigrated from Poland as a member of a socialistic colony that settled at Anaheim, near Los Angeles. He remained in the United States until 1878, studying the life of Polish immigrants and sending articles back to newspapers in Warsaw. The differences in culture between Poland and the United States, as well as the unwillingness of his fellow colonists to cooperate, brought failure to the project. Sienkiewicz returned to Warsaw to make his living as a journalist.

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