- Series: European Classics
- Paperback: 179 pages
- Publisher: Northwestern University Press; Translated edition (August 18, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0810115964
- ISBN-13: 978-0810115965
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,254,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Faithful River (European Classics) Paperback – August 18, 1999
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From Kirkus Reviews
THE FAITHFUL RIVER ( $16.95 paperback original; Aug.; 216 pp.; 0-8101-1596-4). The first US edition of a famous Polish novel, originally published in 1912, which vividly portrays an inchoate country's uprising (186364) against its Russian oppressors. The setting is a manor temporarily abandoned by its wealthy owners, whose beautiful ward (Salomea) protects and nurses back to health a severely wounded Polish soldier (who is himself an aristocrat). The accidental intertwining of their destinies, and their inevitable separation, are delineated with almost operatic intensity in an impressively dramatic (if more than occasionally grandiose) symbolic exploration of the ambiguities of both political allegiance and internecine class distinction. Zeromski (18641925), who seems a strange combination of passionate nationalist reformer and Dostoevskian mystic, looks like a writer very much worth reviving. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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It belongs to the all time classics. It's a shame that there is not more of Zeromski's writing translated to English.
According to the Translator's Introduction, Stefan Zeromski (1864-1925) was the leading Polish novelist of his generation. He was admired by, among others, Joseph Conrad, and he was considered for the Nobel Prize in 1924. THE FAITHFUL RIVER is "one of his greatest achievements and at the same time one of his most accessible works."
Nonetheless, the novel does not wear particularly well. To me, although it was written in 1912, it is very much a 19th Century novel. (Indeed, works I recently read by Nikolai Gogol and Ivan Turgenev, although written more than a half century earlier, are more modern than THE FAITHFUL RIVER.) The writing tends to be melodramatic or clichéd. (Example: "As he lay on the ground they hacked his belly and his legs until every last drop of blood had been spilled. It flowed from his veins, soaked into the meadow, and was drunk by the soft, thirsty spring earth.") The pace is on the slow side. There are frequent instances of the Gothic and of the supernatural.
I wish I could be more enthusiastic about what is (or once was) a classic of Polish literature. If I were Polish, however, I might well regard it more highly.
The Faithful River is about people caught up in an unwinnable uprising of the Poles against the Russians in the 1860s. As one character tells us, the Poles are caught between the two grindstones of the Germans and the Russians, and either they submit to being ground to powder, or they resist. The modern Polish identity was made that way, in the Warsaw Uprising.
The novel starts with a young soldier, left for dead, struggling his way up through the bodies in a mass grave. It ends with another resurrection of sorts: a young woman, despairing to the point of death, being fetched out of the mud by a good and faithful servant. Chapter 10 is one of the most beautiful and most psychologically truthful portrayals of love that I have ever read, and what leads up to and away from that chapter is just as poetic and just as true.