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    The Polish Nobel laureates series: Henryk Sienkiewicz

    Henryk Sienkiewicz was a Polish writer, novelist, and journalist. He is best remembered for his historical novels. He was adored by generations of Poles for awakening a sense of national community and patriotic spirit. Sienkiewicz became one of the most famous Polish writers of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, and numerous translations of his works gained him international renown. Because of his popularity, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his “outstanding merits as an epic writer” in 1905.

    As a journalist, he didn’t limit himself to the national press. On 8 September 1877, he published an article entitled “Poland and Russia” in the Californian daily newspaper “Daily Evening Post”. He described and condemned the two-faced policy of the Russian authorities in the article. According to Sienkiewicz, Russia acted as a defender of the Slavs in the Balkans and at the same time persecuted Poles on the territory of the Kingdom of Poland.


    He also traveled a lot which inspired him to create many works including “Letters from a Journey” and “Litwos’ Letters from a Journey”. His travels were financed by Gazeta Polska (The Polish Gazette) in exchange for a series of travel essays. His articles also appeared in other newspapers, for example, “The Weekly Review” and “Learned and Literary Guide”, where he described the situation of American Polonia.


    As a writer, Sienkiewicz was a strong supporter of Polish Positivism, endorsing constructive, practical characters such as an engineer and a conservative. He wrote such works as “Janko the Musician” in 1879 or “With Fire and Sword” in 1883–84. Later, in the early 1900s, he fell into mutual hostility with the Young Poland movement in Polish literature and as an outcome,  his internationally best-known work “Quo Vadis” was written. It is set in Nero’s Rome. His books have been filmed several times, including Hollywood’s 1951 version of “Quo Vadis” which received the most recognition.


    Nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture, this is the powerful story of a Roman soldier whose romance with a beautiful woman puts him at deadly odds with Emperor Nero. Based on the classic novel by Henry Sienkiewicz, it features stupendous battle scenes. Starring Robert Taylor (“Ivanhoe”), and Oscar-winners Deborah Kerr (“The King and I,” “From Here to Eternity”) and Peter Ustinov (“Spartacus”), who was nominated along with Leo Genn (“Henry V”) for Best Supporting Actor. Directed by Oscar-winner director/producer Mervyn LeRoy (“The Wizard of Oz,” “Little Caesar”). Be on the lookout for cameos by screen icons Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren.



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