Henryk Sienkiewicz: Nobel laureate

I’ve encountered Sienkiewicz before: as the author of “Quo Vadis”, which became a Hollywood movie in my childhood, and as a statue in the parkland I walk though on the way to the Chopin summer concerts in Łazienki. Now, at the Museum of Polish Independence, there is an exhibition devoted to him, all in Polish fittingly, although for me unfortunately. 

He was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1905 for his “outstanding merits as an epic writer.” The citation is fulsome in praise of his ability to describe battles without writing set pieces, and to portray individual characters in all their complexity. In his acceptance speech he says this honor was of particular value to a son of Poland, partitioned and shrunken: “She was pronounced dead — yet here is proof that she lives on…. She was pronounced defeated — and here is proof that she is victorious.”

A display case is devoted to the Nobel prize; and others to stills from “Quo Vadis” and illustrations of his books. But my greatest pleasure comes from mannequins dressed in the costumes of a number of his characters, with all the glorious detail of clothing of the past.


I like the way my knowledge of Warsaw expands unexpectedly. I did not expect to see the statue of Adam Mickiewiecz, Polish national poet, and a familiar inhabitant of Krakowskie  Przedmieście, being raised, but here it is. Sienkiewicz was one of the people who promoted the idea of such a monument. 

About morselsandscraps

A retired Australian who spends a lot of time in Warsaw, and blogs as a way of life.
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17 Responses to Henryk Sienkiewicz: Nobel laureate

  1. Tish Farrell says:

    Those costumes are indeed fabulous, Meg. Thank you for another fascinating slice of Polish culture. It also makes me sorry to realise that I know so very little about European history/culture, recent or otherwise. There was a time during my growing up when the good old BBC regularly featured such things in its entertainment slots – for children and adults – stories, plays, animations, films, arts programmes, so at least one had some meaningful sense of ‘the other’ across the Channel. One would be hard put to to find anything like that now beyond the celebrity chef tour type progs, and the occasional v. thoughtful art series. Which then brings me to a further, and v. sad conclusion that the UK never was a whole-hearted belonger to Europe. We have endlessly looked in the other direction – across the Atlantic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I Wikipediad all the captions – that’s how I knew that’s what the figures were. Lack of language and lack of cultural background are salutary limitations. As for history, my knowledge is infinitesimal, but it’s slowly building up. I’ve spent two years here now and I’m gradually patchworking pieces together. There are a few challenging posts in the wings: I need your facility at telling a historical story coherently and engagingly to tackle Jewish Poland between the wars and the long struggle for Polish independence. On my must-do list for the weekend.

      As for a feel for history. Mine came from novels, and a very limited and biased view it was. “Tale of two cities” and “Children of the New Forest” gives you some idea. TV wasn’t part of my childhood and isn’t part of my grown up life either. For better? For worse? Dunno! (For some mysterious reason the kids call watching stuff and the equipment they watch it on “hedgehog pineapple”.)

      Do you need to know this? No J to maunder on to, so you cop it!!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Sue says:

    I am inclined to agree with you, Tish. Although I have read up to some degree on European history, usually re places I have been visiting.


  3. Sue says:

    Another fabulous Warsaw post, Meg!


  4. restlessjo says:

    Belts, buckles, brooches, exquisite materials and spoons. I love the details you capture, Meg. 🙂
    I don’t know that Europe was ever very at peace with itself. The boundaries were forever changing in a tug of war.


  5. Rosemary Barnard says:

    I saw on the SBS world weather that Warsaw was -1 to 1 degrees C! How quickly temperatures change from the late 30s you were having only about three months ago.


    • Snowing right now, enough to whiten branches. I’m spending a day inside, while the mob go off to cook a goose for M’s saint’s day. It’s Independence Day holiday. I’m determined to complete my last Polin post and begin one on the Independence Museum: two difficult ones because I have to wrangle facts. I think I need to develop a different strategy for such posts: maybe work with laptop and iPad side by side, and maybe do what I used to urge my students to do: begin with an essay plan!! At the moment I begin with photos and try to organise from there.


  6. Madhu says:

    Oh the costumes and accessories are indeed fabulous! Thank you for broadening my limited knowledge of Polish history.


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