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A group of cyclists standing by their bicycles. Some those visible include Bolesław Napierała (first on the left), Spaczyński, Majchrowicz, Skolarczyk, Jastrzębski, 1934, photo: www.audiovis.nac.gov.pl (NAC)

Sienkiewicz jokingly associated cycling with the wheel of fortune, Prus persuaded Żeromski to try the new sport, and Skłodowska-Curie chose the bicycle as a means of travel on her honeymoon. Culture.pl presents an array of anecdotes from the chronicles of Polish cycling.

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Covers of Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis editions in different languages, photo: CBN Polona / www.polona.pl

Quo Vadis – a historical novel about the persecution of the first Christians under Nero – is undoubtedly the most well-known among all the famous works by Henryk Sienkiewicz. The book, which contributed greatly to the Nobel Committee’s decision to award the Polish author, has been published in 2002 editions in 59 languages, including Latin and Esperanto.

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Artwork by: Katarzyna Piątek

Is Polish the most difficult language out there? Some seem to think so. But there are plenty of reasons why you should learn it anyway!

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Still from Knights of the Teutonic Order, a film by Aleksander Ford, 1960, pictured: Ryszard Ronczewski, photo: Polflim / East News

The first works by Henryk Sienkiewicz were translated into Chinese over a hundred years ago at the beginning of the 20th century. Now, over a century later, The Knights of the Cross (Polish title: Krzyżacy) has been published in Chinese as an audiobook, thanks to Audioteka and the Polish Book Institute.

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Henryk Siemiradzki, Christian Dirce, 1897, oil on canvas, 263 x 530 cm, collection of the National Museum in Warsaw

The monumental composition shows a scene in a Roman amphitheatre, where Emperor Nero, his court, and spectators, are watching the corpse of a girl, tortured in a spectacle which has just finished.

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A cover of Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Sir Michael, photo: Greg

‘For the strengthening of hearts’ – in those closing words of the third part of The Trilogy Sienkiewicz defines the idea that accompanied the whole historical cycle. At first, the reader gets to know Sir Michael – the first sabre of the First Commonwealth.

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Daniel Olbrychski in The Deluge by Jerzy Hoffman, photo National Film Archives/www.fototeka.fn.org.pl

The second part of The Trilogy neither did surprise the readers nor the critics. It is a mature continuation of the already established idea, equally gripping and reassuring.

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A cover of With Fire and Sword,photo: Prószyński i S-ka

The first part of The Trilogy was meant to have 60 episodes but it ended up with 206. The novel was read everywhere: on manors, in workshops, offices and at postal services.

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A cover of Henryk Sienkiewicz's Quo vadis  (e-book), photo.: Wydawnictwo Masterlab

‘Quo Vadis will rouse more attention than anything I have written hitherto’ claimed the writer in a letter to Jadwiga Janczewska in 1895. Nevertheless, even the author himself did not suspect that the novel will break all records of popularity and bring him a Nobel Prize in Literature.

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Many people have read and enjoyed Quo Vadis, but very few know its author. Dearly beloved in Poland, Henryk Sienkiewicz has much more to offer than just one novel. His exotic family background, his adventurous life and his other stories are all worth discovering, especially since Poland has declared 2016 the Year of Sienkiewicz.

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Ben Paloff with wife Megan Thomas, also a translator of Polish literature, photo courtesy of Ben Paloff

From Leśmian to Sosnowski and Masłowska, scholar of Slavic languages Ben Paloff discusses the challenges of translating Polish authors and answers the most difficult question of all: can Henryk Sienkiewicz ever be interesting for English readers? (And why Polish diaspora is the worst adviser)

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Can you tell your Szymborska from your Sienkiewicz? Do you think you're well-versed (pun totally intended) in your romantics and your modernists? Take our Polish literature quiz to really test your knowledge.

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Wisława Szymborska receives the Nobel Prize for literature in Stockholm , 1996, photo: Rex Features / Forum

Poland has so far had four Nobel Prize winners in literature. Who were they and who could be next?

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Knight of the Teutonic Orders, dir. Aleksander Ford, 1960., photo: Polflim / East News

Aleksander Ford’s film from 1960

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Tytus Czyżewski, Portrait of Bruno Jasieński, 1920, oil, canvas, photo: courtesy of the Museum of Art in Łódź, Kultura headquarters in Maisons-Laffitte near Paris, photo by: Wojciech Łaski / East News, Józef Oleszkiewicz, Portrait of Adam Mickiewicz, 1828, donation of Władysław Mickiewicz, photo source: National Museum in Cracow

In order to guide English-speakers towards the Polish authors best suited for their specific tastes, Culture.pl has put together an exclusive guide offering historical context and tailor-made recommendations.

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Quo Vadis

Based on the novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz from 1896, Kawalerowicz’s Quo Vadis is one of several adaptations from the book that brought its author the Nobel Prize in 1905.

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