The 2011 Eastern European Reading Challenge
Somehow I came across this challenge earlier last week. And I thought, “Perfect!” There are some books on my own shelves that are written by Polish authors, or take place in Poland, that I really need to read. I feel like I should read them, like I have to read them for various reasons.
This is what I have on my shelves, waiting to be read:
These three books are like required reading amongst Poles; that’s the easiest way of putting it. One problem though: these books are bricks! Interestingly enough, all three have been made into movies but the director made them in reverse over the course of several years. Sadly, there is no good trailer available for With Fire and Sword, which I just love. Oh and the music in that movie. Another thing to love about that movie. If you can find a version of this with English subtitles, I think it’s definitely worth watching. Heck, I always watch Polish movies with subtitles because I still need some help understanding some really hard words.
Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz
This is what earned the author a Nobel Prize in Literature.
Pan Tadeusz (or the Last Foray in Lithuania: a History of the Nobility in the Years 1811 and 1812 in Twelve Books of Verse) by Adam Mickiewicz
Ok, this is more required reading. More so than the trilogy above. Because this is written in prose form, I have the edition where the English and Polish are side by side, otherwise, I would have a hard time understanding. And what a beautiful movie this was! And again, the music! The dance, the polonaise, is seen at the very end of the movie, which Josh and I did to start off our wedding reception. And even at their proms, seniors in Poland will dance this. You can see the scene here, and it starts up at around 50 seconds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vq-VmzcJa3Y
Ashes and Diamonds by Jerzy Andrzejewski
I’ve seen the movie, which is a classic in Polish cinema and the book has been sitting on the shelves for quite some time now.
Snow White and Russian Red by Dorota Maslowska
The Loves of Faustyna by Nina Fitzpatrick
Poland by James Michener
Polonaise by Jane Aiken Hodge
Found this out-of-print book in Canada. Here’s the plot summary: When Jenny Peveral joins the court of her childhood friend, the beautiful Polish princess Isobel Ovinska, she never suspects that the hopes of a divided nation will focus on Isabel’s young son, Prince Casimir.
White Eagle, Dark Skies by Jean Karsavina
Found this while browsing in the Strand. Another out-of-print title, that takes place during the turn of the 20th century in Poland.
The Thousand Hour Day by W.S. Kuniczak
Also found this out-of-print title in the Strand. This book takes place at the very beginning of WWII, which means when Germany invaded Poland.
Miss Nobody by Tomek Trzyna
Another Strand find, but luckily, not as old.
Necessary Lies by Eva Stachniak
No idea how I found out about this book but when I did, I immediately purchased it before running the risk of it going out-of-print. And look at that, it’s still in print!
For the challenge we were able to make suggestions as to what books to read. I did suggest other titles that I myself have read (thankfully!)
When Push Not the River came out, it was dubbed the Polish “Gone With The Wind.” I think this is a great read for anyone who loves historical fiction and romance and wants to learn some history. It takes place during a crucial time in Poland’s history, when Poland passed the Third of May Constitution. Plus, this is based on a diary kept by a Polish countess. I liked the followup, Against a Crimson Sky, but the first book is just great on its own.
A Minor Apocalypse by Tadeusz Konwicki
This requires a reread for me. I read it at some point in high school but I think I know and understand more, which means I need to read this again.
In Desert and Wilderness by Henryk Sienkiewicz
When I was younger, my mom would always read this book to me in Polish. And I had always wanted to read it in English but when it was finally made available in translation, the price tag was just too much for a a meager college student. So one day, in Josh’s hometown, at the semi-annual flea market, there was a first edition copy in English available. From like 1905 or so? For like a buck. The guy who sold it to me clearly had no idea what he had in his hands, at least in my mind. So I read my musty old copy, which was in wonderful condition, and then went to watch the movie …again. Along with having my mom read the book to me, I watched the Polish movie a lot. And that cover you see on the Goodreads link on that title? That’s my cover!
Pharaoh by Boleslaw Prus
When this was finally made available in English, I nagged my mom and dad to get me a copy.
The Poles by Susan Richard
This I had read when I was in Poland with my mom; it might have been my first or second time back in Poland. I was with my mom and our friend was driving us to Warsaw to the airport. And we were driving from mine and my mom’s hometown. It was a very, very long ride. So he had this book and I read it all in the car. These were the days before I started to get carsick when reading. Part of me always wanted a copy so I had found one on eBay in high school. It’s basically about three brothers in love with the same woman and it spans a lot of Polish history. It’s nothing special, just fun.
Madame by Antoni Liberi
This was a huge bestseller when it came out in Poland. What a satisfying read.
The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan Potocki
Eva Underground by Dandi Daley Mackall
I don’t think I would have ever read, or even heard of, this book if it wasn’t for Angieville. This is a YA book, but it takes place at the same time my parents were only in their teens in Poland, so it definitely struck a chord with me. Recently, I was telling a colleague about Poland in the 1980s and some of the stories of my parents and how we came to the US, and she couldn’t believe it was happening so recently. I’m so glad I read this.
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
And this won a Newbery Medal way back in 1929! And to this day, there is a trumpeter who plays in the tower of the Church of St. Mary in the square in Krakow, and it always stops at the broken note. Good read!
So this post came to be slightly longer than I expected. But let’s see how much I can read for this challenge.