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Polish Classic Novel

Cześć! One of the reasons that I learn Polish is because I'm fond of Slavic Literature Culture, so to get more immersed in Polish culture I'd like to start reading some classic novels by Polish authors. Could you please recommend me some basic novels? By the way, I'm a big fan of romances, distopias and books about wars.

July 29, 2017



There are many prominent Polish books you can find on different lists on the internet, but probably the first books I would recommend to a foreigner who wants to read a Polish book would be Henryk Sienkiewicz's Trilogy — Ogniem i mieczem, Potop and Pan Wołodyjowski. Apart from them being really engaging and fascinating reads, what's so special about them is that they offer a fantastic view at Polish culture and history.

They contain many important themes, motifs and references etc. related to the history and tradition of Poland. They were written in late XIX century, when Poland was under occupation, 'for the strengthening of hearts', and thus they're not classical historical novels. They rather celebrate Polish culture, tradition and history, looking at those times in a nostalgic way.

The Trilogy itself holds an important place in our culture and it even has fans (somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, I'd compare it to Sherlock Holmes or LOTR). The events happen in the XVII century, during the time of great wars with Swedes, Muscovites, Turks and the Cossack Uprisings. I think that reading about this particular period of time (which Poles often tend to celebrate and be proud of), with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, szlachta, Polish hussars etc. is a great way to learn about Polish culture and history. You can always read one, and then if you like it, the other two.

PS It's more in the "basic to know" than "basic to read" category. The language is archaised and may be hard even for Polish speakers so a translation is probably the only option unless you're fluent.

[deactivated user]

    Hi, I can't recommend any reading but I did find Biblioteka Literatury Polskiej , Polish Literature in Translation and Culture.pl. I was looking for modern short stories in Polish and from Poland. Perhaps these'll lead you to some discoveries.


    The Poles are quite proud of the fact that the novel (better known in the west as a Peter Ustinov movie) "Quo Vadis" is Polish. But it will be fairly advanced.

    You may also want to try the writings of Maria Konopnicka - she wrote poetry and children's books which are highly regarded in Poland.


    Maria Konopnicka is probably a great option to start. Some of her work can be also found in WikiSource in Polish: https://pl.wikisource.org/wiki/Autor:Maria_Konopnicka :)


    I've heard about the film intitled ''Quod Vadis''... I'm going to watch it firstly, since my polish vocabulary is still miserable.


    The Peter Ustinov version is in English but there was a version in the last 10 years or so in Polish.


    I've just read one polish novel in my life but it became one of my favourites: Ferdydurke, of Gombrowicz. It's one of the most importants novels of the XX century, it's one of the favourite novels of Milan Kundera, for example (he explains a bit about this in the book ''Le rideau'' - I have no idea of the english translation right now, sorry). A polish girl told me that now is a mandatory book in school there in Poland, so you will problably have a topic to speak about if you are with polish people ;)


    I've heard of this translation to English: "Thirty doors key" (some kind of pronunciation game).

    And yes we have to read it in high school. It's a humoristic novel and parody. Sometimes it's really hard to get meaning of some things but it is because it is supposed to be double-meaning. Quite funny and really different from other novels.


    Dziękuję for the recommendation! I'm going to search for this book on the library of my university. :)


    "lalka" (The Doll ) by Bolesław Prus is one of my favorites. I think it has some similarities to "the count of monte cristo" Also "Faraon" (Pharaoh) by the same author. (it takes place in ancient Egypt not in Poland but its awesome)


    I recommend Stefan Żeromski's "Ludzie bezdomni". One of classical books (though not a novel, but an epic poem) is Adam Mickiewicz's "Pan Tadeusz". About the war: Gustaw Herling-Grudziński's "Inny świat" or Zofia Nałkowska's "Medaliony". My favourite contemporary author is the late Ryszard Kapuściński ("Cesarz" about Ethiopia, "Szachinszach" about Iran, "Heban" about Africa, among many others).


    I can recommend Wolne Lektury (free classic Polish books; and it's totally legal) : http://wolnelektury.pl/

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