Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

There can be no doubt that it was Henryk Sienkiewicz’s success as an author of historical novels that led the Swedish Academy to select him as the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1905. He was at the same time, however, a prolific writer of short stories, many of which continue to be ranked among the finest ever written in the Polish language. One of his masterworks in this genre is titled “Janko myzikant” (1879; “Yanko the Musician,” 1893). In this story, a young peasant boy named Yanko is so obsessed with the beauty of music that he is unable to resist the temptation of stealing a violin from the manor house of the local squire. When caught, he is beaten so severely that he dies. The underlying irony of this tale stems from the fact that those who live in the manor house consider themselves to be patrons of the arts and frequently travel to Italy for the purpose of discovering and assisting young artists.

Equally popular is “Latarnik” (1882; “The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwall,” 1893), the plot of which centers on the fate of an aged Polish exile who finally succeeds in being hired as a lighthouse keeper on the island of Aspinwall near the Panama Canal Zone. One day he receives a parcel of Polish books that includes a copy of Adam Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz: Czyli, Ostatni Zajazd na litwie historia Szlachecka zr. 1811 i 1812 we dwunastu ksiegach wierszem (1834; Pan Tadeusz: Or, The Last Foray in Lithuania, a...

(The entire section is 560 words.)