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Sienkiewicz’s Bodies

Studies of Gender and Violence


Ryszard Koziolek

Sienkiewicz’s Bodies focuses on the work of the most popular Polish writer from the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. It discusses the surprising success of Sienkiewicz’s writing in relation to the dissection of optimistic illusion that takes place during a reading of its cruel prose. Sienkiewicz is seen as something more than a juggler of genius in narrative prose. This conservative writer, like the modernists, knew that there was no longer any way to construct a representation of reality in a morally non-contradictory fictional discourse. The energy of his narratives and his linguistic drive disturb the order of narrative and expose the heteronomy of a superficially unified style, thus generating fissures, but never ruining the architecture of the text.
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Zagłoba’s Laughter


– Is it possible that in universo I alone am not drunk?(Ogniem i mieczem)

Sienkiewicz designed an attentive reader. The essential introduction of Zagłoba into the plot of the novel takes place when he decides to be a part of Bohun’s campaign against the Kurcewiczes. The author knew that Zagłoba’s decision to accompany Bohun to Rozłogi might seem strange and incomprehensible to the reader. Chmielnicki’s rebellion is rising behind his back, the slaughter of the nobles and gentry, from which not even Bohun’s company could save him, had started, and he, instead of fleeing to the safety of the hetman’s armies, sets off with the Cossacks on a foray. And a bold one indeed! Their target is after all Helena Kurcewiczówna, cousin of the terrible Prince Jeremi.

Right from the very start the author provides us with an inconsistency in the doings of the character, whose nature does not fit in with his actions. Not only that, the narrator himself, who in such cases should explain to the reader the motives behind the characters’ decisions, confesses ignorance in this matter; it even seems that he is surprised by the author when trying to “guess” the enigmatic motives for the character’s undertakings.227

Pan Zagłoba could indeed take shelter in the hetmans’ camp, but he had his reasons, for which he did not do so. Was it a condemnation for some murder, or maybe an irregularity in the accounts, he alone...

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