Polish literature, even though not as well known as its Russian or German cousins, surely deserves equal respect and attention. Over the centuries, when Poland was not an independent political entity, it served as a foundation for recreating Polish identity, and as such it provides an intriguing account of the country’s history and culture. Distilling any section of the literary world to just a couple of titles is a daunting task, but we hope that this selection will give you a slight taste of the Polish literary scene, highlighting its diversity of styles, forms, and approaches.
Early 19th-century Romanticism: Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz
The rise of Polish Romanticism concurred with the country’s loss of independence, leaving writers with a sense of longing for the lost motherland. Pan Tadeusz, a novel in verse, written by Adam Mickiewicz while on exile in Paris, is considered a Polish national epic and one of the most important texts in the forming of Polish sense of nationhood. Centered around a Romeo and Juliet-like love story, the poem also talks about a local revolt against the Russian occupying forces. Still today, Pan Tadeusz remains required reading for all Polish pupils, and a large portion of the population can recite the beginning verses from memory.
Late 19th-century realism: The Trilogy by Henryk Sienkiewicz
Winner of the 1905 Nobel Prize in Literature, Henryk Sienkiewicz is one of the Polish masters of the novel. His detailed historical descriptions mixed with vibrant storytelling and heroic characters who are willing to sacrifice everything for the greater good were essential in preserving the national spirit during the partitions. Comprised of With Fire and Sword, The Deluge, and Fire on the Steppe, the Trilogy chronicles the most important historic events of the 17th century, including the Cossack revolt, Swedish invasion, and wars between Poland and the Ottoman Empire.
20th-century modernism: Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass byBruno Schulz
If instead of epic novels, you prefer more experimental works, pick up a copy of Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass by Bruno Schulz. Applauded for his poetic style, which mixed the ordinary with the metaphysical, Schulz is one of the leading figures in Eastern European modernism, along with Franz Kafka. Despite a small body of work — only two collections of stories and a few dozen articles, essays, and paintings — John Updike, Philip Roth, and I.B. Singer all quote Schulz as having influenced them.
World War II: Medallions by Zofia Nałkowska
Medallions is a collection of eight short stories that create literary portraits of Holocaust survivors. Nałkowska collected the materials for the book when she was a member of the Polish committee for the investigation of Nazi crimes. Written in simple and concise prose, Medallions is considered as one of the leading examples of antifascist literature.
Post-1945: Native Realm by Czesław Miłosz
Known primarily for his poetry, Czesław Miłosz was an equally great essayist who captured the essence of the surrounding world with razor-sharp precision and intelligence. His autobiography Native Realm remains a fascinating account of twentieth-century history blended seamlessly with personal stories from the writer’s life.
Communist era: The Elephant by Sławomir Mrożek
This brilliantly witty collection of 42 short stories satirizes life in Communist Poland, poking fun at the absurdity of the totalitarian regime, its bureaucracy and outright lies. In the title story, the zoo puts an inflatable elephant on display to save money, while in another, a family of wealthy lawyers keep a “tamed progressive” as a pet. A must-read for all Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky and Donald Barthelme fans.
Contemporary literature: House of Day, House of Night by Olga Tokarczuk
Olga Tokarczuk is undoubtedly one of the most critically acclaimed contemporary Polish authors. Her House of Day, House of Night, first published in Poland in 1988, follows a young married couple as they move into a small Silesian town. As the story progresses, the narrator learns more and more about the local community through their personal and shared narratives.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.