Joseph Wittlin Introduction - Essay

Introduction

Joseph Wittlin 1896–1976

(Also transliterated as Józef) Polish novelist, poet, and essayist.

Wittlin's most significant contributions to the literary world consist of Hymny (Hymns), a collection of poems revealing his personal anguish over war, and Sól ziemi (Salt of the Earth), the first volume of an unpublished trilogy with the planned title Saga of the Patient Footsoldier.

Salt of the Earth expands on the war themes evident in Wittlin's earlier works. It has elicited almost unanimous praise for its symbolic depiction of the Unknown Soldier in his struggles to adapt to the horror and chaos of war. Although Wittlin died before completing the third volume, and the manuscript of the second volume was lost in the turmoil of World War II, the first volume stands as a complete work of art. Wittlin's skill at combining in this work the elements of a historical saga and a contemporary novel led the Polish critic Jan Koprowski to call it "a record of the time and a piece of art of timeless significance."

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 49-52, Vols. 65-68 [obituary] and Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 3.)