3 Bolesław Prus

Bolesław Prus

Infobox Writer
name = Aleksander Głowacki

imagesize = 150px
caption = Photograph by Wilhelm Feldman (1887)
pseudonym = "Bolesław Prus"
birthdate = birth date|mf=yes|1847|08|20
birthplace = Hrubieszów, Poland
deathdate = death date and age|mf=yes|1912|05|19|1847|08|20
deathplace = Warsaw, Poland
occupation = Novelist, journalist, short-story writer
nationality = Polish
period = 1872–1912
genre = Realist novel
Historical novel
Short story
Prose poetry
subject =
movement = Positivism
spouse = Oktawia Głowacka, "née" Trembińska
partner =
children = An adopted son, Emil Trembiński
relatives =
influences =
influenced =

website =

Bolesław Prus (pronounced: .

An indelible mark was left on him by his experiences as a 15-year-old soldier in the Polish 1863 Uprising against Imperial Russia, in which he suffered severe injuries and imprisonment.

In 1872 at age 25, in Warsaw, Prus settled into a distinguished 40-year journalistic career. As a sideline, to augment his income and to appeal to readers through their aesthetic sensibilities, he began writing short stories. Achieving success with these, he went on to employ a broader canvas; between 1886 and 1895, he completed four major novels on "great questions of our age" — all the while, continuing work on his newspaper columns.

Of his novels, perennial favorites with readers are "The Doll" and "Pharaoh". "The Doll" describes the romantic infatuation of a man of action who is frustrated by the backwardness of his society. "Pharaoh", Prus' only historical novel, is a study of political power and statecraft, set in ancient Egypt at the fall of its 20th Dynasty and thus of the New Kingdom.


Early years

Aleksander Głowacki was born on August 20, 1847, in Hrubieszów, Poland, the younger son of Antoni Głowacki, an estate steward in the village of Żabcze, in Hrubieszów County, and Apolonia Głowacka, "née" Trembińska. In 1850, when the future "Bolesław Prus" was three years old, his mother died; the child was given into the care of his maternal grandmother, Marcjanna Trembińska of Puławy, and, four years later, into that of his aunt, Domicela Olszewska of Lublin. In 1856 Prus was orphaned by his father's death. In 1862 his brother Leon, a teacher who was thirteen years his elder, took him to Siedlce, then to Kielce. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=146–47 ]

Soon after the outbreak of the Polish January 1863 Uprising against Imperial Russia, 15-year-old Prus ran away from school to join the insurgents. He may have been influenced by his brother Leon, who subsequently became one of the insurrection's leaders. During the Uprising, Leon developed a mental illness that he would suffer from until his death in 1907.

On September 1, 1863, twelve days after his sixteenth birthday, Prus took part in a battle against Russian forces at the village of Białka, four kilometers south of Siedlce. He suffered contusions to the neck and gunpowder injuries to his eyes, and was captured unconscious on the battlefield and taken to hospital in Siedlce. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus, 1847-1912: Kalendarz życia i twórczości |last=Tokarzówna |first=Krystyna |authorlink= |coauthors=Stanisław Fita |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=45-46 ] This experience may have caused his subsequent lifelong agoraphobia. [cite book |title=Wspomnienia o Bolesławie Prusie (Reminiscences about Bolesław Prus) |author=Fita, Stanisław, ed. |coauthors= |year=1962 |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=113 ]

Five months later, in early February 1864, for his role in the Uprising Prus was arrested and imprisoned at Lublin Castle. In early April a military court sentenced him to forfeiture of his nobleman's status and resettlement on imperial lands. On April 30, however, the Lublin District military head credited Prus' time spent in arrest and, on account of the 16-year-old's youth, decided to place him in the custody of his uncle Klemens Olszewski. On May 7 Prus was released and entered the household of Katarzyna Trembińska, a relative and the mother of his future wife, Oktawia Trembińska. [Krystyna Tokarzówna and Stanisław Fita, "Bolesław Prus, 1847–1912", pp. 51–52.]

Prus enrolled at a Lublin "gymnasium" (where he was a student of Józef Skłodowski, grandfather of Maria Skłodowska-Curie). [Robert Reid, "Marie Curie", p. 12.] Graduating on June 30, 1866, he matriculated in the Warsaw University Department of Mathematics and Physics.cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=147 ] In 1868 his University studies were cut short by financial difficulties.

In 1869 he enrolled at the Agricultural and Forestry Institute in Puławy, a historic town where he had spent part of his childhood and which would be the setting for his striking 1884 micro-story, "Mold of the Earth." Soon, however, he was expelled after a classroom confrontation with a professor of Russian language.

Henceforth he studied on his own while supporting himself as a factory worker and tutor. As part of his program of self-education, he translated and summarized John Stuart Mill's "Logic". In 1872 he embarked on a career in journalism, while continuing to work at the Lilpop and Rau factory in Warsaw.cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=148 ] Journalism would become his school of writing.

In 1873 Prus delivered two public lectures whose subjects illustrate the breadth of his scientific interests: "On the Structure of the Universe," and "On Discoveries and Inventions."


As a newspaper columnist, Prus commented on the achievements of scientists and scholars such as John Stuart Mill, Charles Darwin, Alexander Bain, Herbert Spencer and Henry Thomas Buckle; [cite book |title="Twórczość Bolesława Prusa" (The Art of Bolesław Prus) |last=Szweykowski |first=Zygmunt |authorlink=Zygmunt Szweykowski |coauthors= |year=1947 |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=18-23, 31-32, 293-94 and "passim"] urged Poles to study science and technology and to develop industry and commerce; encouraged the establishment of charitable institutions to benefit the underprivileged; described the fiction and nonfiction works of fellow writers such as H.G. Wells;Ref_label|a|a|none and extolled man-made and natural wonders such as the Wieliczka Salt Mine, [cite journal |last=Kasparek |first=Christopher |authorlink=Christopher Kasparek |coauthors= |year=1997 |month= |title=Prus' "Pharaoh" and the Wieliczka Salt Mine |journal=The Polish Review |volume=42 |issue=3 |pages=349–55 |id= |url= |accessdate= 2008-02-11 ] the town of Nałęczów, and an 1887 solar eclipse that he witnessed at Mława. [cite journal |last=Kasparek |first=Christopher |authorlink=Christopher Kasparek |coauthors= |year=1997 |month= |title=Prus' "Pharaoh" and the Solar Eclipse |journal=The Polish Review |volume=42 |issue=4 |pages=471–78 |id= |url= |accessdate= 2008-02-11 ]

His "Weekly Chronicles" spanned forty years (they have since been reprinted in twenty volumes) and would help prepare the ground for the 20th-century blossoming of Polish science and especially mathematics.Ref_label|b|b|none "Our national life," wrote Prus, "will take a normal course only when we have become a useful, indispensable element of civilization, when we have become able to give nothing for free and to demand nothing for free." [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=49 ] The social importance of science and technology would recur as a theme in his novels "The Doll" (1889) and "Pharaoh" (1895). Of contemporary thinkers, the one who most greatly influenced Prus and other writers of the Polish "Positivist" period (roughly 1864–1900) was Herbert Spencer, the English sociologist who coined the phrase, "survival of the fittest." Prus would call Spencer "the Aristotle of the 19th century" and would write: "I grew up under the influence of Spencerian evolutionary philosophy and heeded its counsels, not those of Idealist or Comtean philosophy." [cite book |title=Twórczość Bolesława Prusa (The Art of Bolesław Prus) |last=Szweykowski |first=Zygmunt |authorlink=Zygmunt Szweykowski |coauthors= |year=1947 |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=21-22 ] Prus interpreted "survival of the fittest," in the societal sphere, as involving not only competition but also cooperation; and he adopted Spencer's metaphor of society as organism. [cite book |title="Twórczość Bolesława Prusa" (The Art of Bolesław Prus) |last=Szweykowski |first=Zygmunt |authorlink=Zygmunt Szweykowski |coauthors= |year=1947 |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=32-33] He would use this metaphor to striking effect in his 1884 micro-story "Mold of the Earth," and in the introduction to his 1895 historical novel, "Pharaoh".

After Prus began writing regular weekly newspaper columns, his finances stabilized, permitting him on January 14, 1875, to marry a distant cousin on his mother's side, Oktawia Trembińska. [After Prus' death in 1912, she would survive him until her own death on October 25, 1936. Tadeusz Hiż, "Godzina u pani Oktawii" ("An Hour at Oktawia Głowacka's"), in the book "Wspomnienia o Bolesławie Prusie", 281.] The couple never had children of their own. They did adopt a son, Emil Trembiński (born September 11, 1886, the son of Prus's wife's brother Michał Trembiński, who had died on November 10, 1888). [Tokarzówna, Krystyna; Stanisław Fita. "Bolesław Prus, 1847–1912: Kalendarz życia i twórczości", 387.] Emil would be the model for "Rascal" in chapter 48 of Prus's 1895 novel, "Pharaoh". [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus, 1847-1912: Kalendarz życia i twórczości |last=Tokarzówna |first=Krystyna |authorlink= |coauthors=Stanisław Fita |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=605 ] Tragically, on February 18, 1904, at age seventeen, Emil would shoot himself dead on the doorstep of an unrequited love. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus, 1847-1912: Kalendarz życia i twórczości |last=Tokarzówna |first=Krystyna |authorlink= |coauthors=Stanisław Fita |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=604 ] In 1906, at the age of fifty-nine, Prus may have had a son who would become one of his legatees and an engineer and would die in a German camp after the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising of August–October 1944. [cite book |title=Ostatnia miłość w życiu Bolesława Prusa |last=Pauszer-Klonowska |first=Gabriela |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages= ] Though Prus was a gifted writer, initially best known for his humorist work, early on he thought little of his journalistic and literary productions. Hence at the inception of his career in 1872, at age 25, he adopted for his newspaper columns and fiction the pen name "Prus"—"Prus I" being his family coat-of-arms—while reserving his actual name, Aleksander Głowacki, for "serious" writings. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=148 ]

In 1878 an incident occurred that illustrated the strong feelings that could be aroused in susceptible readers of newspaper columns. In one of his columns, Prus had criticized the loud and, in his view, inappropriate behavior of some youths at a lecture about the poet Wincenty Pol. The University of Warsaw students in question demanded that Prus retract what he had written. After he refused, on March 26, 1878, several of them surrounded him outside his home, to which he had just returned in the company of two fellow-writers, and one of the students, Jan Sawicki, slapped Prus in the face. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus, 1847-1912: Kalendarz życia i twórczości |last=Tokarzówna |first=Krystyna |authorlink= |coauthors=Stanisław Fita |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=187–90] Prus summoned police, but subsequently declined to press charges against the students. [Lorentowicz, Jan, in the book, "Wspomnienia o Bolesławie Prusie", 106.] He remembered the incident, however; and seventeen years later, during his 1895 visit to Paris, he refused, by some accounts, to meet with one of his erstwhile assailants, whom he blamed for having "ruined [his] life," perhaps by having caused or exacerbated his agoraphobia. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus, 1847-1912: Kalendarz życia i twórczości |last=Tokarzówna |first=Krystyna |authorlink= |coauthors=Stanisław Fita |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=474]

In 1882 Prus succeeded the prophet of Polish Positivism, Aleksander Świętochowski, to the editorship of the Warsaw daily "Nowiny" (News). He resolved, in the best Positivist fashion, to make it "an observatory of societal facts"—an instrument for advancing the development of his country. After less than a year, however, "Nowiny" folded and Prus resumed writing columns. [Pieścikowski, Edward, "Bolesław Prus", 152.] He continued working as a journalist to the end of his life, even well after he had achieved success as an author of short stories and novels.


In time, Prus adopted the French Positivist critic Hippolyte Taine's concept of the arts, including literature, as a second means, alongside the sciences, of studying reality, [cite book |title=Twórczość Bolesława Prusa |last=Szweykowski |first=Zygmunt |authorlink=Zygmunt Szweykowski |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=109 ] and he devoted more attention to his sideline of short-story writer. Prus's stories, which met with great acclaim, owed much to the Polish novelist Józef Ignacy Kraszewski and, among English-language writers, to Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. [cite book |title=The History of Polish Literature |last=Miłosz |first=Czesław |authorlink=Czesław Miłosz |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=293 ] His fiction would also be influenced by French writers Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert, Alphonse Daudet and Émile Zola. [cite book |title=Twórczość Bolesława Prusa |last=Szweykowski |first=Zygmunt |authorlink=Zygmunt Szweykowski |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=66, 84, 122 and "passim" ]

Prus wrote several dozen stories, originally published in newspapers and ranging in length from micro-story to novella. Characteristic of Prus's stories are his keen observation of everyday life and his sense of humor, which he had honed early on as a contributor to humor magazines. [cite book |title=Twórczość Bolesława Prusa |last=Szweykowski |first=Zygmunt |authorlink=Zygmunt Szweykowski |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages="passim" ] The prevalence of themes from everyday life is consistent with the Polish Positivist artistic program, which sought to portray the circumstances of the general populace rather than those of the erstwhile Romantic heroes of an earlier generation of writers. The literary period in which Prus wrote was ostensibly a prosaic age, by contrast with the poetry of the Romantics; but Prus' prose is often a poetic prose. His stories also often contain elements of fantasy or whimsy. A fair number of his stories originally appeared in New Year's issues of newspapers.

Prus long eschewed writing historical fiction, arguing that it must inevitably distort history. He criticized contemporary historical novelists for their lapses in historic accuracy, including Henryk Sienkiewicz's failure, in the military scenes in his "Trilogy" portraying 17th-century Polish history, to describe the logistics of warfare. It would only be in 1888, when Prus was forty, that he would write his first historical fiction, the stunning short story, "A Legend of Old Egypt." This story would, a few years later, serve as a preliminary sketch for his only historical novel, "Pharaoh" (1895). [Hiż, Tadeusz, in Stanisław Fita, ed., "Wspomnienia o Bolesławie Prusie", 277-78.]

Eventually Prus would compose four novels on what he had referred to in an 1884 letter as "great questions of our age": [Pieścikowski, Edward, "Bolesław Prus", 67.] "The Outpost" ("Placówka", 1886) on the Polish peasant; "The Doll" ("Lalka", 1889) on the aristocracy and townspeople and on idealists struggling to bring about social reforms; "The New Woman" ("Emancypantki", 1893) on feminist concerns; and his only historical novel, "Pharaoh" ("Faraon", 1895), on mechanisms of political power. The work of greatest sweep and most universal appeal is "Pharaoh". [Kasparek, Christopher, "Prus' "Pharaoh" and Curtin's Translation," "The Polish Review", vol. XXXI, nos. 2-3 (1986), 127.] Prus' novels, like his stories, were originally published in newspaper serialization.

After having sold "Pharaoh" to the publishing firm of Gebethner and Wolff, Prus embarked on May 16, 1895, on a four-month journey abroad. He visited Berlin, Dresden, Karlsbad, Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Rapperswil. At the latter Swiss town he stayed two months (July–August), nursing his agoraphobia and spending much time with his friends, the promising young writer Stefan Żeromski and his wife Oktawia. The couple sought Prus's help for the Polish National Museum where Żeromski was librarian. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=157 ]

The final stage of Prus's journey took him to Paris, where he was prevented by his agoraphobia from crossing the Seine River to visit the city's southern Left Bank. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=157 ] He was nevertheless pleased to find that his descriptions of Paris in "The Doll" had been on the mark (he had based them mainly on French-language publications). [Oral account by Prus' widow, Oktawia Głowacka, cited by Tadeusz Hiż, "Godzina u pani Oktawii" ("An Hour at Oktawia Głowacka's"), in the book, "Wspomnienia o Bolesławie Prusie", 278.] From Paris he hurried home to recuperate at Nałęczów from his journey, the last that he would make abroad. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=157-58 ]

Later years

Over the years, Prus lent his name and support to many charitable and social causes. But there was one event that he would come to rue for the broad criticism that it brought him: it involved his helping to welcome Russia's Tsar Nicholas II during an 1897 visit to Warsaw. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=159-60 ] As a rule, Prus held to the principle of not affiliating himself with political parties, as such affiliation might compromise his journalistic objectivity. His associations, by design and temperament, were with individuals and with select worthy causes rather than with large groups.

Prus' experiences in the January 1863 Uprising had persuaded him to urge society's advancement through learning, work and commerce rather than through potentially-disastrous social upheavals. He departed from this stance, however, in 1905, when Imperial Russia experienced defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and his compatriots demanded autonomy and reforms. On December 20, 1905, in the first issue of a short-lived periodical, "Młodość" (Youth), he published an article, "Oda do młodości" ("Ode to Youth"), whose title harked back to an 1820 poem by Adam Mickiewicz. Prus wrote, in reference to his earlier position on revolution and strikes: "with the greatest pleasure, I admit it—I was wrong!" [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus, 1847-1912: Kalendarz życia i twórczości |last=Tokarzówna |first=Krystyna |authorlink= |coauthors=Stanisław Fita |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=626 ]

In 1908 Prus serialized in the Warsaw "Tygodnik Ilustrowany" (Illustrated Weekly) his novel "Dzieci" (Children), describing the young revolutionaries, terrorists and anarchists of the day; it was an uncharacteristically humorless work. Three years later a final novel, "Przemiany" (Changes), was to have been, not unlike "The Doll", a panorama of the society and of its vital concerns. The novel's beginning, however, had barely been serialized in the "Illustrated Weekly" in 1911-12 when the book's composition was cut short by Prus's death. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=142-43, 165-67 ] Neither of the two late novels, "Children" or "Changes", is generally regarded as part of the essential Prus canon, and Czesław Miłosz has called "Children" one of Prus' weakest works. [cite book |title=The History of Polish Literature |last=Miłosz |first=Czesław |authorlink=Czesław Miłosz |coauthors= |year=1983 |publisher= |location= |isbn=0-520-04477-0 |pages=303 ] Prus' last novel to meet with popular acclaim was "Pharaoh", completed in 1895. Depicting the demise of ancient Egypt's Twentieth Dynasty and New Kingdom three thousand years earlier, "Pharaoh" had also reflected Poland's loss of independence a century before in 1795 [Kasparek, Christopher (1994), "Prus' "Pharaoh": the Creation of a Historical Novel," "The Polish Review", 39 (1), 46.] —an independence whose post-World War I restoration Prus would not live to see.

On May 19, 1912, in his Warsaw apartment at 12 Wolf Street ("ulica Wilcza 12"), Prus' forty-year journalistic and literary career came to an end. [Pieścikowski, Edward, "Bolesław Prus", 167.]

The beloved agoraphobic author was mourned by the nation that he had striven, as soldier, thinker and writer, to rescue from oblivion. [cite book |title=To samo ramię |last=Wróblewski |first=Zbigniew |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages= ] Thousands attended his May 22, 1912, funeral service at St. Alexander's Church on nearby Triple Cross Square ("Plac Trzech Krzyży") and his interment at Powązki Cemetery. [Kotarbiński, Miłosz, "Kilka luźnych wspomnień o Bolesławie Prusie" ("Several Loose Reminiscences about Bolesław Prus"), in Stanisław Fita, ed., "Wspomnienia o Bolesławie Prusie", 147-48.]

Prus' tomb was designed by his nephew, the noted sculptor Stanisław Jackowski. On three sides it bears, respectively, the novelist's actual name, Aleksander Głowacki, his years of birth and death, and his pen name, Bolesław Prus. On the fourth side is the inscription "Serce serc" ("Heart of hearts"), borrowed from the Latin inscription "Cor cordium" on the tomb of English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in Rome's Protestant Cemetery. [Kotarbiński, Miłosz, "Kilka luźnych wspomnień o Bolesławie Prusie" ("Several Loose Reminiscences about Bolesław Prus"), in Stanisław Fita, ed., "Wspomnienia o Bolesławie Prusie", 148, 151.] Below that inscription is the figure of a little girl embracing Prus' tomb — a figure emblematic of his well-known empathy and affection for children. [Hiż, Tadeusz, "Godzina u pani Oktawii" ("An Hour at Oktawia Głowacka's"), in Stanisław Fita, ed., "Wspomnienia o Bolesławie Prusie", 279.] [Pauszer-Klonowska, Gabriela, "Ostatnia miłość w życiu Bolesława Prusa", "passim".]


On December 3, 1961, nearly half a century after Prus' death, a museum devoted to him was opened in the 18th-century Małachowski Palace at Nałęczów, near Lublin, a city in eastern Poland. It was at Nałęczów that Prus had vacationed for thirty years from 1882 until his death, and that he had met the young Stefan Żeromski. Prus had served as witness at Żeromski's 1892 wedding and had helped foster the younger man's writing career.

While Prus espoused a positivist and realist outlook, much in his fiction shows qualities compatible with pre-1863-Uprising Polish Romantic literature. Indeed, he held the Polish Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz in high regard. [cite book |title=Twórczość Bolesława Prusa |last=Szweykowski |first=Zygmunt |authorlink=Zygmunt Szweykowski |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=111-12 ] Prus's novels in turn, especially "The Doll" and "Pharaoh", with their innovative composition techniques, blazed the way for the 20th-century Polish novel. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=10-14]

Prus's novel "The Doll" was considered by Czesław Miłosz to be the best Polish novel. [cite book |title=The History of Polish Literature |last=Miłosz |first=Czesław |authorlink=Czesław Miłosz |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=296 ]

"The New Woman" was pronounced by Joseph Conrad to be "better than Dickens"—Dickens being a favorite author of Conrad's. [cite book |title=Conrad under Familial Eyes |last=Najder |first=Zdzisław |authorlink=Zdzisław Najder |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=215 ] Czesław Miłosz, however, thought that the novel was "as a whole... an artistic failure..." [cite book |title=The History of Polish Literature |last=Miłosz |first=Czesław |authorlink=Czesław Miłosz |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=299 ] Zygmunt Szweykowski similarly faulted "The New Woman"'s loose, tangential construction; this, in his view, was partly redeemed by Prus' humor and by some superb episodes, while "The tragedy of Mrs. Latter and the picture of [the town of] Iksinów are among the peak achievements of [Polish] novel-writing." [cite book |title=Twórczość Bolesława Prusa |author=Szweykowski, Zygmunt |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=288 ] "Pharaoh", a study of political power, became the favorite novel of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, prefigured the fate of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and continues to point analogies to more recent times. [cite journal |last=Kasparek |first=Christopher |authorlink=Christopher Kasparek |coauthors= |year=1986 |month= |title=Prus' "Pharaoh" and Curtin's Translation |journal=The Polish Review |volume=31 |issue=2-3 |pages=127–35 |id= |url= |accessdate= 2008-02-12 ] "Pharaoh" is often described as Prus's "best-composed novel" [For example, by Janina Kulczycka-Saloni, in Jan Zygmunt Jakubowski, ed., "Literatura polska od średniowiecza do pozytywizmu" p. 631.] —indeed, "one of the best-composed [of all] Polish novels." [Wilhelm Feldman, cited in Teresa Tyszkiewicz, "Bolesław Prus", p. 339.] This was due in part to "Pharaoh" having been composed complete prior to newspaper serialization, rather than being written in instalments just before printing, as was the case with Prus' earlier major novels.

"The Doll" and "Pharaoh", which made Prus a potential candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature, are available in English versions. [Bolesław Prus, "The Doll", translation by David Welsh, revised by Dariusz Tołczyk and Anna Zaranko, 1996; "Pharaoh", translated from the Polish by Christopher Kasparek, 2nd ed., 2001.] "The Doll" has been translated into sixteen languages, and "Pharaoh" into twenty. In addition, "The Doll" has been filmed several times and been produced as a late-1970s television miniseries, while "Pharaoh" was adapted into a 1966 feature film.

In 1897-99 Prus serialized in the Warsaw "Daily Courier" ("Kurier Codzienny") a monograph on "" ("Najogólniejsze ideały życiowe"), which systematized ethical ideas that he had developed over his career regarding "happiness", "utility" and "perfection" in the lives of individuals and societies. [cite book |title="Twórczość Bolesława Prusa" (The Art of Bolesław Prus) |last=Szweykowski |first=Zygmunt |authorlink=Zygmunt Szweykowski |coauthors= |year=1947 |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=295-97 and "passim"] In it he returned to the society-organizing (i.e., political) interests that had been frustrated during his "Nowiny" editorship fifteen years earlier. A book edition appeared in 1901 (2nd, revised edition, 1905). This work, rooted in Jeremy Bentham's Utilitarian philosophy and Herbert Spencer's view of society-as-organism, retains interest especially for philosophers and social scientists.

Another of Prus's learned projects remained incomplete at his death. He had sought over his writing career to develop a coherent theory of literary composition. Notes of his from 1886-1912 were never put together into a finished book as he had intended. [cite book |title=Poglądy estetyczne i działalność krytycznoliteracka Bolesława Prusa |last=Melkowski |first=Stefan |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=84-146 ] Ref_label|c|c|none Some particularly intriguing fragments describe Prus's combinatorial calculations of the millions of potential "individual types" of human characters, given a stated number of "individual traits." [Melkowski, pp. 117–23.]

A curious comparative-literature aspect has been noted to Prus's career, which paralleled that of his American contemporary, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914). Each became a war casualty with combat head trauma—Prus in 1863 in the Polish 1863-65 Uprising; Bierce in 1864 in the American Civil War. Each experienced false starts in other occupations, and at twenty-five became a journalist for the next forty years; failed to sustain a career as editor-in-chief; achieved celebrity as a short-story writer; lost a son in tragic circumstances (Prus, an adopted son; Bierce, both his sons); attained superb humorous effects by portraying human egoism (Prus especially in "Pharaoh", Bierce in "The Devil's Dictionary"); was dogged from early adulthood by a health problem (Prus, agoraphobia; Bierce, asthma); and died within two years of the other (Prus in 1912; Bierce presumably in 1914). Prus, however, unlike Bierce, went on from short stories to write novels. [cite journal |last=Kasparek |first=Christopher |authorlink=Christopher Kasparek |coauthors= |year=1995 |month= |title=Two Micro-stories by Bolesław Prus |journal=The Polish Review |volume=40 |issue=1 |pages=99–103 |id= |url= |accessdate= 2008-02-12] In Prus's lifetime and since, his contributions to Polish literature and culture have been memorialized without regard to the nature of the political system prevailing in Poland in the respective periods:
*His 50th birthday, in 1897, was marked by special newspaper issues celebrating his 25 years as a journalist and literary artist, and a portrait of him was commissioned from artist Antoni Kamieński. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=94-95, 159 and "passim"]
*The town where Prus was born, Hrubieszów, near the present Polish-Ukrainian border, is graced by an outdoor sculpture of him.
*A 1982 plaque on Warsaw University's administration building, the historic Kazimierz Palace, commemorates Prus' years at the University in 1866-68.
*Across the street ("Krakowskie Przedmieście") from the University, in the Holy Cross Church, a 1936 plaque by Prus' nephew Stanisław Jackowski, featuring Prus' profile, is dedicated to the memory of the "great writer and teacher of the nation." [Kotarbiński, Miłosz, "Kilka luźnych wspomnień o Bolesławie Prusie" ("Several Loose Reminiscences about Bolesław Prus"), in Stanisław Fita, ed., "Wspomnienia o Bolesławie Prusie", 147-48, 151.]
*At Nałęczów, Prus's favorite vacationing place, is a Prus Museum, opened in 1961, and outside it, a statue of Prus.
*Another statuary monument to Prus at Nałęczów, sculpted by Alina Ślesińska, was unveiled on May 8, 1966. [Tokarzówna, Krystyna, and Stanisław Fita, "Bolesław Prus, 1847–1912", photo facing p. 705.]
*On the front of Warsaw's present-day "ulica Wilcza 12", the site of Prus' last home, is a plaque commemorating the earlier, now-nonexistent building's most famous resident.
*A few hundred meters from there, "ulica Bolesława Prusa" (Bolesław Prus Street) debouches into the southeast corner of Warsaw's Triple Cross Square. In this square stands St. Alexander's Church, where Prus's funeral was held. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=136–37]
*In 1937, plaques were installed at "Krakowskie Przedmieście" "4" and "7", where the two chief characters of Prus's novel "The Doll", Stanisław Wokulski and Ignacy Rzecki, respectively, had been deduced to have resided. [Pieścikowski, Edward, "Bolesław Prus", 68-69.]
*From 1975 to 1984, Prus's compatriots honored his memory with a 10-"złoty" coin featuring his profile.
*Near the site of a newspaper for which Prus once wrote, in a park on Warsaw's "Krakowskie Przedmieście" adjacent to the Hotel Bristol, stands a statue of Prus, sculpted in the late 1970s by Anna Kamińska-Łapińska. [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus |last=Pieścikowski |first=Edward |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=144-45 ] It is some twelve feet tall, on a minimal pedestal as befits an author who always chose to be close to his fellow man.
*Consonant with Prus's interest in the advancement of commerce and technology, there is a Polish Ocean Lines freighter named for him. [cite web |url=http://www.pol.com.pl/?sub=3&sub2=b&statek=110
title="Bolesław Prus" |accessdate=2008-03-02 |last= |first= |coauthors= |date= |work= |publisher=Polish Ocean Lines

Notable works

The following is a chronological list of works by Bolesław Prus. Translated titles, when available, are given, followed by original titles and dates of publication.


* "Souls in Bondage" ("Dusze w niewoli", written 1876, serialized 1877)
* "Fame" ("Sława", begun 1885, never finished)
* "The Outpost" ("Placówka", 1885–86)
* "The Doll" ("Lalka", 1887–89)
* "The New Woman" ("Emancypantki", 1890–93)
* "Pharaoh" ("Faraon", written 1894–95; serialized 1895–96)
* "Children" ("Dzieci", 1908; approximately the first nine chapters had originally appeared, in a somewhat different form, in 1907 as "Dawn" ["Świt"] )
* "Changes" ("Przemiany", begun 1911–12; unfinished)


* "The Old Lady's Troubles" ("Kłopoty babuni," 1874)
* "The Palace and the Hovel" ("Pałac i rudera," 1875)
* "The Ball Gown" ("Sukienka balowa," 1876)
* "An Orphan's Lot" ("Sieroca dola," 1876)
* "Eddy's Adventures" ("Przygody Edzia," 1876)
* "Damned Luck" ("Przeklęte szczęście," 1876)
* "The Old Lady's Casket" ("Szkatułka babki," 1878)
* "Stan's Adventure" ("Przygoda Stasia," 1879)
* "New Year" ("Nowy rok," 1880)
* "The Returning Wave" ("Powracająca fala," 1880)
* "Michałko" (1880)
* "Antek" (1880)
* "The Convert" ("Nawrócony," 1880)
* "The Barrel Organ" ("Katarynka," 1880)
* "One of Many" ("Jeden z wielu," 1882)
* "The Waistcoat" ("Kamizelka," 1882)
* "Him" ("On," 1882)
* "Fading Voices" ("Milknące głosy," 1883)
* "Sins of Childhood" ("Grzechy dzieciństwa," 1883)
* "Orestes and Pylades" ("Orestes i Pylades," 1884)
* "Loves—Loves Not?..." ("Kocha—nie kocha?..." 1884)
* "The Mirror" ("Zwierciadło," 1884)
* "On Vacation" ("Na wakacjach," 1884)
* "An Old Tale" ("Stara bajka," 1884)
* "In the Light of the Moon" ("Przy księżycu," 1884)
* "The Mistake" ("Omyłka," 1884)
* "Mold of the Earth" ("Pleśń świata," 1884—a striking micro-story that portrays human history as an unending series of conflicts among mindless, blind colonies of mold)
* "" ("Żywy telegraf," 1884)
* "Mr. Dutkowski and His Farm" ("Pan Dutkowski i jego folwark," 1884)
* "Musical Echoes" ("Echa muzyczne," 1884)
* "In the Mountains" ("W górach," 1885)
* "Shades" ("Ciene," 1885—an evocative meditation on existential themes)
* "Anielka" (1885)
* "A Strange Story" ("Dziwna historia," 1887)
* "A Legend of Old Egypt" ("Z legend dawnego Egiptu," 1888—Prus' first piece of historical fiction; a stunning debut, and a preliminary sketch for his only historical novel, "Pharaoh", which would be written in 1894–95)
* "The Dream" ("Sen," 1890)
* "Lives of Saints" ("Z żywotów świętych," 1891–92)
* "Reconciled" ("Pojednani," 1892)
* "A Composition by Little Frank: About Mercy" ("Z wypracowań małego Frania. O miłosierdziu," 1898)
* "The Doctor's Story" ("Opowiadanie lekarza," 1902)
* "Memoirs of a Cyclist" ("Ze wspomnień cyklisty," 1903)
* "Revenge" ("Zemsta," 1908)
* "Phantoms" ("Widziadła," 1911, first published 1936)


* "Travel Notes (Wieliczka)" ["Kartki z podróży (Wieliczka)," 1878—Prus's impressions of the Wieliczka Salt Mine; these would help inform the conception of the Egyptian Labyrinth in Prus's 1895 novel, "Pharaoh"]
* "A Word to the Public" ("Słówko do publiczności," June 11, 1882—Prus' inaugural address to readers as the new editor-in-chief of the daily, "Nowiny" [News] , famously proposing to make it "an observatory of societal facts, just as there are observatories that study the movements of heavenly bodies, or—climatic changes.")
* "Sketch for a Program under the Conditions of the Present Development of Society" ("Szkic programu w warunkach obecnego rozwoju społeczeństwa," March 23–30, 1883—swan song of Prus's editorship of "Nowiny")
* "With Sword and Fire"—Henryk Sienkiewicz's Novel of Olden Times" ("Ogniem i mieczem"—powieść z dawnych lat Henryka Sienkiewicza," 1884—Prus's review of Sienkiewicz's historical novel, and essay on historical novels)
* "The Paris Tower" ("Wieża paryska," 1887—whimsical divagations involving the Eiffel Tower, the world's tallest structure, then yet to be constructed for the 1889 Paris "Exposition Universelle")
* "Travels on Earth and in Heaven" ("Wędrówka po ziemi i niebie," 1887—Prus's impressions of a solar eclipse that he observed at Mława; these would help inspire the solar-eclipse scenes in his 1895 novel, "Pharaoh")
* "A Word about Positive Criticism" ("Słówko o krytyce pozytywnej," 1890—Prus' part of a polemic with Positivist guru Aleksander Świętochowski)
* "Eusapia Palladino" (1893—newspaper column about the mediumistic séances held in Warsaw by the Italian Spiritualist, Eusapia Palladino; these would help inspire similar scenes in Prus's 1895 novel, "Pharaoh")
* "From Nałęczów" ("Z Nałęczowa," 1894—Prus's paean to the salubrious waters and natural and social environment of his favorite vacation spot, Nałęczów)
* "" ("Najogólniejsze ideały życiowe", 1905—Prus's system of pragmatic ethics)
* "Ode to Youth" ("Oda do młodości," 1905—Prus's admission that, before the Russian Empire's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, he had held too cautious a view of the chances for an improvement in Poland's political situation)
* "Visions of the Future" ("Wizje przyszłości," 1909—a discussion of H.G. Wells's 1901 futurological book, "Anticipations", which predicted, among other things, the defeat of German imperialism, the ascendancy of the English language, and the existence, by the year 2000, of a "European Union" that would include the Slavic peoples of Central Europe)
* "The Poet, Educator of the Nation" ("Poeta wychowawca narodu," 1910—a discussion of the cultural and political principles imparted by the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz)
* "What We... Never Learned from the History of Napoleon" ("Czego nas... nie nauczyły dzieje Napoleona"—Prus's contribution to the December 16, 1911, issue of the Warsaw "Illustrated Weekly", devoted entirely to Napoleon)


Prus's writings have been translated into many languages — his historical novel "Pharaoh", into twenty; his contemporary novel "The Doll", into at least sixteen. Works by Prus were rendered into Croatian by a member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Stjepan Musulin.

Film versions

*1966: "Pharaoh", adapted from the novel "Pharaoh", directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz
*1968: "Lalka" (The Doll), adapted from the novel "The Doll", directed by Wojciech Has
*1978: "Lalka" (The Doll), adapted from the novel "The Doll", directed by Ryszard Ber
*1979: "Placówka" (The Outpost), adapted from the novel "The Outpost", directed by Zygmunt Skonieczny
*1982: "Pensja Pani Latter" (Mrs. Latter's Boarding School), adapted from the novel "The New Woman"

ee also

* History of philosophy in Poland
* Positivism in Poland
*List of Poles
* Zakopane
*Flash fiction


a. Note_label|a|a|none In a January 1909 newspaper column, Prus discussed H.G. Wells' 1901 book, "Anticipations", including Wells' prediction that by the year 2000, following the defeat of German imperialism "on land and at sea," there would be a European Union that would reach eastward to include the western Slavs—the Poles, Czechs and Slovaks. The latter peoples, along with the Hungarians and six other countries, did in fact join the European Union in 2004. [cite journal |last=Kasparek |first=Christopher |authorlink=Christopher Kasparek |coauthors= |year=2003 |month= |title=A Futurological Note: Prus on H.G. Wells and the Year 2000 |journal=The Polish Review |volume= |issue=1 |pages=89–100 |id= |url= |accessdate= 2008-02-11 ]

b. Note_label|b|b|none Prus was not alone in advocating the development of science and technology. It was part of the spirit of the times. The great Polish mathematician Kazimierz Kuratowski writes that in the period when Poland was under complete foreign rule (1795–1918) "It was a common belief that the cultivation of science and the growth of its potential would somehow guarantee the [survival] of the [Polish] nation." [cite book |title=A Half Century of Polish Mathematics: Remembrances and Reflections |last=Kuratowski |first=Kazimierz |authorlink=Kazimierz Kuratowski |coauthors= |year=1980 |publisher=Pergamon Press |location= |isbn=0-08-023046-6 |pages= ]

c. Note_label|c|c|none In 1890 Prus wrote: "When I was starting out as a writer, I wrote in part instinctively, in part by inadvertent imitation. My productions were a collection of haphazard observations, put together no doubt against the backdrop of what I had read. Every beginning author does the same. To be sure, this kind of work was to me a great mortification. [...] Then I began asking older authors, and they told me that 'there are no rules, nor can there be any, for the art of novel-writing.' [...] Then [about 1880] , brought to desperation, I set about trying to resolve for myself the question: 'Can literary art be reduced to general rules?' After several years of observing and thinking, the matter began to get clearer for me, and as early as August 1886 I set down my first notes [...] and, God willing, I hope to publish a scientific theory of literary art. I expect that it will contain some fairly new things." [cite book |title=Bolesław Prus | author=Pieścikowski, Edward |coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= |pages=74-75 ]



*Tokarzówna, Krystyna (1981), "Młodość Bolesława Prusa" (Bolesław Prus' Youth), Warsaw, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, ISBN 83-06-00603-8.
* Jakubowski, Jan Zygmunt, ed., "Literatura polska od średniowiecza do pozytywizmu" (Polish Literature from the Middle Ages to Positivism), Warsaw, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1979.
* Robert Reid, "Marie Curie", New York, New American Library, 1974.
* (This book contains twelve stories by Prus, including the volume's title story, in inaccurate, clunky translations.)

External links

* [http://www.newpoland.com/famous_poles_prus.htm Boleslaw Prus] at NewPoland.com
* [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9061664/Boleslaw-Prus Boleslaw Prus] in Encyclopædia Britannica
* [http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Prus-Bol.html Bolesław Prus] in Columbia Encyclopedia
* [http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_762509811/Boleslaw_Prus.html Bolesław Prus] in MSN Encarta
*Józef Bachórz, [http://univ.gda.pl/~literat/autors/prus.htm Bolesław PRUS] in VIRTUAL LIBRARY OF POLISH LITERATURE
* [http://www.flashfictiononline.com/pdf/fpublic0002-mold-of-the-earth-boleslaw-prus.pdf "Mold of the Earth"] by Bolesław Prus, translated by Christopher Kasparek
*pl icon [http://encyklopedia.pwn.pl/haslo.php?id=3963046 Prus Bolesław] in PWN Encyklopedia
*pl icon [http://encyklopedia.interia.pl/haslo?hid=97626 Prus Bolesław] in Interia Encyklopedia
*pl icon [http://portalwiedzy.onet.pl/29956,haslo.html Prus Bolesław] in WIEM Encyklopedia

NAME=Prus, Bolesław
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Głowacki, Aleksander
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Polish journalist, short-story writer and novelist
DATE OF BIRTH=August 20, 1847
PLACE OF BIRTH=Hrubieszów, Poland
DATE OF DEATH=May 19, 1912
PLACE OF DEATH=Warsaw, Poland

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