The Peasants

by Władysław Stanis Rejment

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 323

The Peasants (original title in Polish: Chłopi) is a realist novel written by famed Nobel Prize–winning Polish novelist Władysław Rejment. The book consists of four parts, and each part describes how the four seasons affect the daily life of a group of peasants and how they try to adapt to the different weather conditions. Thus, the first volume is titled Autumn and was published in 1904; the second volume was published some time later in the same year and is titled Winter; the third volume, Spring, was published in 1906; and the last volume, Summer, was published in 1909.

Essentially, by writing the saga, Rejment wanted to showcase the deep connection with nature that all humans share. He incorporates rich and beautiful imagery and vivid landscapes and manages to perfectly describe the peasants' sometimes idyllic, sometimes bleak country life. It is noteworthy that Rejment wrote the book in his own dialect, which only strengthens the point he was trying to make; thus, readers are given detailed insight into the culture and communal life of the villagers. In fact, many critics agree that Rejment is one of the few writers who gives an honest, authentic, and accurate portrayal of country life in Poland.

Set in the Polish village of Lipce, the story follows Maciej Boryna—a middle-aged man who is a rich (if not the richest) man in the village; the plot mainly focuses on Maciej's complicated relationship with his son Antek and Antek's wife and children. Thus, one of the main themes of the novel is the importance of family. Other themes include infidelity, love, jealousy, money, power, greed, and poverty.

The Peasants received many positive reviews upon its publication, and Rejment was praised for his captivating yet simple narrative and his multidimensional characters. The novel achieved great commercial success as well and was translated into many different languages; it was also adapted into a film in 1922 and a television show in 1972.

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