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Wladyslaw Reymont Biography


Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont

The famous Polish novelist and laureate was born on May 6, 1867, as the son of the village organist. His youth was spent as a travelling actor, tailor's apprentice and rail-road worker. His experiences in these endeavours were to serve him well in his first literary efforts, which consisted of realistic short stories of rustic life. Reymont's first novels, The Comedienne, published in 1896, and The Ferment, published 1897, drew on his experiences as an itinerant actor to depict life in a travelling theatrical company. The Promised Land, which followed in 1899, was a radical departure from the traditional form of the Polish novel, since it was among the first Polish works to develop a theme without making use of the device of the hero. It is a novel of protest, set in the textile city of Lodz, often called the Manchester of Poland, which exposes, without compromise, the corruption of the mill owner and the brutalizing conditions under which the people lived, worked and died.

Reymont's literary career culminated in his famous four volume masterpiece, The Peasants, which was written in 1904 and 1905 and gained the author a Nobel Prize in 1924. In this great folk epic, he returns to the countryside, to the villages which he knows so well. Its main plot deals with the love of a peasant man for a peasant woman, but this is really subservient to the major theme, which is the social analysis of the Polish peasant with all his traditions, emotions, loyalties and struggles. Its characters are simple folk and their lives are simple, often brutal, but the work is complex and mature. The four seasons provide The Peasants with natural divisions, and this proves to be a remarkably effective device for portraying the eternal cycle of Polish peasant life, as well as the passionate attachment of the people for the soil.

The heroic trilogy, The Year 1794, written between 1913 and 1914, was Reymont's last work of any significance. Set in the years following the Third Partition in Poland, this novel follows the growth of the revolutionary mood in this subjugated but unconquerable country until its final culmination in the Revolution of 1830.

Reymont died in 1925, one year after receiving the greatest honour of his life. He was a man with a fond attachment and deep sensitivity to a people, culture and a way of life. The W. Reymont Foundation in Canada was established to serve the people of the Polish Canadian community in the some spirit of pride in a cultural heritage.