gustaw herling

The Great Polish Book Recs Post

@classic-literature-snob​ asked me for some Polish book recs, so here we go.

Polish books translated into English:

  • The Witcher Series by Andrzej Sapkowski (fantasy)
  • The Doll by Bolesław Prus (historical fiction: 19th century)
  • The Fictions/The Crocodile Street by Bruno Schulz (magic realism)
  • The Pianist by Władysław Szpilman (non-fiction: WWII; escaping from Warsaw Ghetto)
  • Who Was David Weiser? by Paweł Huelle (historical fiction: post-WWII)
  • On the Road to Babadag by Andrzej Stasiuk (contemporary)
  • A World Apart by Gustaw Herling-Grudziński (non-fiction: WWII; memories of a Gulag survivor)
  • Wedding by Stanisław Wyspiański (play; pretty heavy symbolism)
  • The Peasants by Władysław Reymont (historical fiction: late 19th century; Nobel prize winner)
  • The Shoemakers by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (play; magic realism)
  • Short stories by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz (especially Friends & Lovers of Marona, if you can find those)
  • Like Eating a Stone by Wojciech Tochman (non-fiction; civil war in Bosnia)
  • Story For a Friend by Halina Poświatowska (kind of an autobiography)
  • Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz (historical fiction: Roman Empire; beginnings of Christianity; Nobel prize winner)
  • The Trilogy (With Fire and Sword, The Deluge & Sir Michael) by Henryk Sienkiewicz (historical fiction: 17th century; respectively: the Khmelnitsky Uprising, the Swedish invasion, also known as the Deluge & war against Ottoman Empire)
  • Solaris by Stanisław Lem (sci-fi)
  • The Stranger by Maria Kuncewiczowa (psychological)
  • Czesław Miłosz (poetry; Nobel prize winner)
  • Wisława Szymborska (poetry; Nobel prize winner)
  • Tadeusz Różewicz (poetry)
  • Zbigniew Herbert (poetry)

Books that haven’t been translated into English (yet):

  • Dobry by Waldemar Łysiak (historical fiction: PRL)
  • Taksim* by Andrzej Stasiuk (contemporary)
  • Drach* & Król by Szczepan Twardoch (historical fiction)
  • literally anything by Miron Białoszewski (mostly poetry and diaries)
  • Czterdzieści i cztery by Wojciech Piskorski (fantasy/historical fiction)
  • Gnój by Wojciech Kuczok (contemporary)
  • Najgorszy człowiek na świecie by Małgorzata Halber (contemporary)
  • Kobieta nie-doskonała by Sylwia Kubryńska (contemporary)
  • Inne pieśni by Jacek Dukaj (sci-fi)
  • Śmierć w Breslau by Marek Krajewski (crime story/historical fiction)
  • Jeżycjada by Małgorzata Musierowicz (contemporary, YA)
  • Tango by Sławomir Mrożek (play, contemporary)
  • Siekierezada by Edward Stachura (magic realism)
  • Akademia Pana Kleksa by Jan Brzechwa (kids lit)
  • Wakacje z duchami by Adam Bahdaj (YA; detective story)
  • Pan Samochodzik i templariusze and the rest of the series by Zbigniew Nienacki (YA; detective story)
  • Kamienie na szaniec (non-fiction: WWII)

*available in German

These are some of my favorites. Feel free to reblog and add yours!

Although we know little of the essence of dreams, we know at least that they let us observe the past without those empty interludes, those clamorous or simply insignificant blank passages of the stream of time. So we often see reality compressed in an instantaneous flash, instead of the authentic, diluted version of the past that, no matter how dramatic at the moment, loses much of its drama with the passing of the years. For this reason, what we see in dreams sometimes seems more real than the actual events that we have seen with our open eyes assuring us of that tangible consistency which is altogether incomparable to the volatile substance of dreams. A dream extracts what is essential from the disordered chaos of life, and even if its unraveling takes only a few minutes on the clock of our existence, a dream gives such a larger sense of continuity, of consistency, of logical sequence, of clarity and precision; in short, of those characteristics which the world lacks, tottering as it does on the edge of nonsense and compared by the poet to a story told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. But in order that the secret of the great moment of contact between life and death will never be revealed, and so that no one may boast (even at the end or at the threat of the end) that he has been allowed to observe his own life from the other shore, he returns at daybreak from the world of dreams with his tongue torn out, as if returned from the slavery of an enemy jealous of his secrets. No one has ever succeeded in recounting his dream with precision. Awakening reduces the illusion of the dream to the level of the illusion of reality in the tale of the idiot, full of sound and fury. One returns with a disordered impression that is impossible to straighten out and explain; it vanishes like a puff of smoke, which can never regain its lost form. Once the dream is over, its richness, its logic, its clarity become the nothing after an explosion – mere fragments of an immaterial and surprising structure.
—  Gustaw Herling, The Island
Ach, bezsenność, bezsenność! Nikt, kto tego sam nie doświadczył, nie potrafi sobie wyobrazić, jak smutna i długa jest noc, którą spędza się bez zmrużenia oka i z myślą utkwioną w przeszłości wyzutej całkowicie z nadziei! Nie, nikt nie potrafi tego zrozumieć.
—  Gustaw Herling-Grudziński
Wszyscy przyjaciele odcisnęli ślad na mojej osobowości. Każdemu z nich bardzo dużo zawdzięczam, bo przyjaźń polega przecież na wymianie. Nie wszyscy są do niej zdolni. Znam ludzi, z którymi po prostu trudno się zaprzyjaźnić. Ale jeżeli się trafia na kogoś, kto jest do przyjaźni skłonny, to jest to wielki dar losu.
—  Gustaw Herling-Grudziński - Najkrótszy przewodnik po sobie samym