The Routledge World Companion to Polish Literature offers an introduction to Polish literature through thirty-three case studies, covering works from the Middle Ages up to the present day. Each chapter draws on a text or body of work, examining its historical context, as well as its international reception and position within world literature.

The book presents a dual perspective on Polish literature, combining original readings of key texts with discussions of their two-way connections with other literatures across the globe. With a detailed introduction offering a narrative overview, the book is divided into six sections offering a chronological pathway through the material. Contributors from around the world examine the various cultural exchanges at play, with each chapter including:

  • Definitions of key terms and brief overviews of historical and political events, literary eras, trends, movements, groups, and institutions for those new to the area
  • Analysis and notes on translations, including their hidden dimensions and potential
  • Textual focus on poetics, such as strategies of composition, style, and genre
  • A range of historical, sociological, political, and economic contexts

From medieval song through to the contemporary novel, this book offers an interpretive history of Polish literature, while also positioning its significance within world literature. The detailed introductions make it accessible to beginners in the area, while the original analysis and focused case studies will also be of interest to researchers.

chapter |5 pages


Polish literature and its worlds
ByTomasz Bilczewski, Stanley Bill, Magdalena Popiel

part Part I|51 pages

Old Polish literature

chapter 1|11 pages

In search of origins

ByEmiliano Ranocchi

chapter 2|12 pages

World order in a harmonious hymn

Jan Kochanowski's “What dost Thou of us require, Lord, for Thy plenteous graces?”
ByAndrea Ceccherelli

chapter 3|12 pages

A child's death, the poet's immortality

Jan Kochanowski's Laments
ByCharles Zaremba

chapter 4|14 pages

The poetry of “passage”

Mikołaj Sęp Szarzyński's sonnets
ByLuigi Marinelli

part Part II|54 pages

Sources of modernity

chapter 5|14 pages

The Adventures of Mr. Nicholas Wisdom

Reading Ignacy Krasicki with Kant
ByBożena Shallcross

chapter 6|13 pages

The “fairytale” magic of speech

Franciszek Karpiński's Lukierda's Plaint
ByRolf Fieguth

chapter 7|12 pages

Is Jan Potocki's The Manuscript Found in Saragossa a Polish work?

ByFrançois Rosset

chapter 8|13 pages

The letters of Jewish lovers in Dutch

Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz's Levi and Sarah
ByKris Van Heuckelom

part Part III|72 pages

The nineteenth century

chapter 9|15 pages

The culture of memory

Adam Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz
ByBrigita Speičytė

chapter 10|14 pages

Adam Mickiewicz

Two poems and their Brazilian readings
ByHenryk Siewierski

chapter 11|15 pages

“Being's fated shade”

Cyprian Kamil Norwid's “Irony”
ByMichał Mrugalski

chapter 12|12 pages

Bolesław Prus's The Doll

Polish historical vistas from a Japanese perspective
ByTokimasa Sekiguchi

chapter 13|14 pages

Toward mass culture

The global renown of Henryk Sienkiewicz's Quo Vadis
ByMonika Woźniak

part Part IV|79 pages

Polish modernism

chapter 14|13 pages

Stanisław Brzozowski's Flames

ByJens Herlth

chapter 15|12 pages

“Rebellion against boundaries”

Bolesław Leśmian's The Meadow
ByKatia Vandenborre

chapter 16|12 pages

The Polish avant-garde in Japan

Bruno Jasieński's I Burn Paris
ByAriko Kato

chapter 17|14 pages

“A man on the brink of disaster”

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz's Insatiability
ByMichał Paweł Markowski

chapter 18|13 pages

History and myth

Bruno Schulz's Spring
ByStanley Bill

chapter 19|13 pages

Psychological realism and Modernist poetics

Zofia Nałkowska's Boundary
ByUrsula Phillips

part Part V|85 pages

Postwar literature

chapter 20|11 pages

Witness and form

Tadeusz Borowski's This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
ByBożena Karwowska

chapter 21|14 pages

Gustaw Herling-Grudziński's A World Apart

ByMaria Delaperrière

chapter 22|13 pages

Making Sense of Trans-Atlantyk

The reception of Witold Gombrowicz's exile novel in Norway
ByKnut Andreas Grimstad

chapter 23|10 pages

Archaism as a tool of change

Reflections on a poem by Czesław Miłosz
ByTomas Venclova

chapter 24|11 pages

Stanisław Jerzy Lec's Unkempt Thoughts

ByLeonard Neuger

chapter 25|10 pages

Stanisław Lem's Solaris

Interpretations in the Russian-speaking world
ByWiktor Jaźniewicz

chapter 26|14 pages

Translating memory

The reception of Miron Białoszewski's A Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising in North America
ByJoanna Niżyńska

part Part VI|88 pages

Beyond ideology

chapter 27|14 pages

The drama of otherness

Tadeusz Różewicz's White Marriage
ByTamara Trojanowska

chapter 28|14 pages

Wisława Szymborska

“Writing a résumé”
ByGiovanna Tomassucci

chapter 29|16 pages

Zbigniew Herbert and antiquity

Poetry, oppression, and “the classic”
ByArent van Nieukerken

chapter 30|12 pages

The untranslatable trope

Mariusz Wilk's “Russian” cycle
ByIrina Adelgeym

chapter 31|9 pages

A thicket of hieroglyphs and ideograms

Ryszard Kapuściński's Travels with Herodotus
ByWu Lan

chapter 32|10 pages

“Try to praise the mutilated world”

Adam Zagajewski and the poetry of 9/11
ByClare Cavanagh

chapter 33|11 pages

Micro-suspense and the desire to keep reading

Translating Olga Tokarczuk's The Books of Jacob
ByJennifer Croft

chapter |4 pages


A world history of Polish literature
ByNorman Davies