Reymont, Wladyslaw Stanislaw (7 May 1867 – 5 December 1925)
Władysław Stanisław Reymont (7 May 1867 – 5 December 1925)
University of British Columbia
BOOKS: Pielgrzymka do Jasnej Góry (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1895);
Komediantka (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1896), translated by Edmund Obecny as The Comédienne (New York & London: Putnam, 1920);
Fermenty (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1897);
Spotkanie: Szkice i obrazki (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1897);
Lili: Zalosna idylla z illustracyami (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1899);
Ziemia obiecana, 2 volumes (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1899); translated by Michael H. Dziewicki as The Promised Land, 2 volumes (New York: Knopf, 1927);
Sprawiedliwie (Warsaw: Biblioteka Dziel Wyborowych, 1899);
W jesienną noc (Warsaw: Gazeta Polska, 1900);
Przed switem; Pewnego dnia; Sprawiedliwie (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1902);
Z pamiętnika (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1903)-comprises “W jesienną noc,” “W porębie,” “Przy robocie,” “Wenus,” “Legenda wigilijna,” “O zmierzchu,” “W glębinach,” and “Dwie wiosny”;
Chłopi, 4 volumes (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1904–1909)– comprises volume 1, Jesien; volume 2, Zima; volume 3, Wiosna; and volume 4, Lato; translated by Dziewicki as The Peasants, 4 volumes (New York: Knopf, 1924–1925)-comprises volume 1, Autumn; volume 2, Winter; volume 3, Spring; and volume 4, Summer;
Ave Patria (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1907);
Na krawędzi: Opowiadania (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1907)-comprises “Z konstytucyjnych dni,” “Sąd,” “Cmentarzysko,” “Zabiłem,” and “Czekam”;
Marzyciel: Szkic powieśćiowy (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1910)– includes Marzydel, Senne dzieje, and W pruskiej szkole;
Z ziemi chełmskiej: Wrażenia i notaki (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1910);
Wampir (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1911);
Rok 1794: Powieść historyczna, 3 volumes (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1913-1918)-comprises volume 1, Ostatni sejm Rzeczypospolitej; volume 2, Nil desperandum; and volume 3, Insurekcja;
Przysięga (Poznań: Ostoja Spolka Wydawnicza, 1917);
Za frontem (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1919)–comprises “Na niemca,” “Pęknięty dzwon,” “Orka,” “Dola,” “Wolanie,” “I wynieśli,” “Za frontem,” “Echa,” and “Skazaniec nr. 437”;
Osądzona: Dwie opowieści (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1922)– comprises “Osądzona” and “Księzniczka”;
Pisma, 16 volumes, edited by Adam Grzymala-Siedlecki (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1922–1925);
Na zagonie (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1923)— comprises “W jesienną noc,” “W porębie,” “Sąd,” “Suka,” “Śmierć,” “Zawierucha,” “Tomek Baran,” “Legenda wigilijna,” “Szczęśliwi,” and “Pewnego dnia”;
Bunt: Baśń (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1924);
Pęknięty dzwon (Lwów: Nakl. Wydawn. Polskiego, 1925)— comprises “Pęknięty dzwon,” “Na niemca!” “Orka,” “Dola,” “Wolanie,” “I wynieśli,” “Za frontem,” “Echa,” and “Skazaniec”;
Pamiętnik młodej Polki/Journal d’une jeune Polonaise, bilingual edition, French translation by Franck L. Schoell (Paris: Payot, 1932);
Pisma, 20 volumes, edited by Adam Bar (Warsaw: Gebethner & Wolff, 1949–1952);
Dziela wybrane, 12 volumes, edited by Henryk Markiewicz and Jerzy Skórnicki (Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1955–1957).
Polish writer Władysław Stanisław Reymont’s career is quite remarkable: to come from a near-peasant background with barely a high-school education to win the 1924 Nobel Prize in Literature, and thus gain world fame, is no mean achievement. His fame was relatively short-lived, and interest in his work outside of Poland has waned; yet, he has continued to be read and regarded in Poland as a major novelist.
From a broader critical perspective, the interest of his works may be said to be threefold: biographical, cultural, and literary. For those who are interested in Reymont’s somewhat melodramatic biography and want to understand his views on a variety of contemporary issues and his general outlook, his literary works of course are invaluable. They are also of considerable interest in terms of cultural studies, literary history, and what has been called anthropology of literature, considering their main themes, which include city and peasant life as well as provincial theatrical groups and spiritualism. Moreover, his writings reflect several literary currents and models, such as realism, naturalism, neo-Romanticism, modernism, and symbolism, while contributing to each of these currents in turn. Finally, there are the few works that, thanks to their artistic merit, deserve to be read and studied for their own sake.
Reymont was born on 7 May 1867 in Kobiele Wielkie, a village situated near the city of Łódź in central Poland, which, since the partitions of the Polish Commonwealth at the end of the eighteenth century and until 1918, was part of the Russian Empire. The landscape around the village and in the vicinity of Tuszyn, to which his father moved a year later, retains considerable beauty, with old-growth forest and undulating terrain.
The origin of Reymont’s family on the paternal side is uncertain, but the version that is skeptically accepted, however mythologized, is that the family was apparently of Swedish origin: a soldier in the Swedish army that invaded Poland in the mid seventeenth century was either captured or deserted and settled near Częstochowa, famous for its shrine devoted to the Virgin Mary. His Swedish name was polonized as Balcer, but at some point one of the descendants received the nickname Rejment (apparently from rejmentować, to swear vehemently, to thunder swearwords), and that was the name under which the writer published his first work, until he had changed the order of his given names from Stanislaw Władyslaw to Władysław Stanisław as well as the surname to Reymont. Since he often signed his work as Władyslaw St. Reymont, he was sometimes taken for a Frenchman. Whatever the truth about the past of his family it is worth stressing that the future author of the epic novel Chłopi (1904-1909; translated as The Peasants, 1924-1925) did not actually come from a peasant family, but from a family that lived close to the peasants. His grandfather was a village church organist who, to avoid having his several sons conscripted into the tsarist army, made them all into church organists (the profession was exempt from military service). Reymont’s father was thus a village organist, who owned a mill and some land. The writer’s mother, Antonina, née Kupczyńska, came from the petty nobility with some cultural interests, and it was probably from her and her relatives that young Reymont derived his interest in literature. Reymont had two brothers and seven sisters.
There are still some uncertainties about Reymont’s early life, to which he himself contributed by his tendency to fictionalize his past (a good example of Reymont’s “creative” treatment of his life is the autobiographical statement he sent to the Nobel Prize Committee, in which he overdramatizes his “vicissitudes”). There was tension between Reymont and his father, since the young man refused to follow the career that his father had mapped for him. (Violent tension between a father and his daughter who runs away to join a theatrical group is depicted with great feeling in two of Reymont’s early novels, Komediantka [1896; translated as The Comédienne, 1920] and Fermenty [1897, Ferments], and the theme returns in Chłopi, where father and son clash over their love for the same young woman.) It was apparently his mother who taught Reymont to read before he started attending school, though some sources attribute this task to his father; and his readings of Polish authors (he gave in one of his reminiscences a dramatic account of his first reading of Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Trylogia [1883-1888, Trilogy]) set him apart from his immediate milieu and most of his siblings and turned his interest to writing. He began with verse, which was quite atrocious but which he refused to quit writing until well into his twenties (the brother he was closest to once wrote to him: “For a million score devils quit writing poetry!”). He also apparently had some talent for drawing and for a while thought of becoming a painter, while, according to his account, his father brutally forced him to practice playing on the spinet, which the unmusical son hated. How much formal schooling Reymont received is unclear, though he did have some secondary education.
The unruly young man was punitively placed by his father in 1880 in a tailoring establishment, run in Warsaw by the husband of one of young Reymont’s sisters. Learning the trade took Reymont four years, but he was accepted into the guild of tailor apprentices in 1884, having presented to the examiners “a tail coat well made.” During the four years in the trade school Reymont also attended the Warsaw Sunday-Crafts School, but by this time his mind was of an entirely different bent, and barely a year after his graduation as a tailor (a trade he never practiced) he joined a repertory theater group that gave performances in various provincial towns and occasionally in Warsaw. An actor who was a member of the same troupe recalled years later that Reymont had no talent and even lacked the desirable looks for the acting profession:
Physically he had little to offer: rather short, with a voice that wasn’t anything and so short-sighted, that he could hardly see without glasses. Nevertheless the director let him debut in Gawalewicz’s play Barcarole. He entered the stage paralyzed by stage-fright and, since he played the role of a lover, without his glasses, which made him even stiffer. He finished his episode and, half-blind, instead of exiting through the normal door, opened a near-by wardrobe and went into it. He ruined the entire performance. Yet the director kept him in the troupe.
Less than a year later Reymont left the troupe and, being without a job, returned to his parents’ small farm in the country. For a while he worked on the railways as assistant to a gatekeeper at a railway crossing and in some other capacity, but he again “ran away” in 1890 to join a theater group in the town of Piotrków, only to leave disillusioned after a short stay. He then returned to various jobs on the Warsaw-Vienna rail line, during which time he considered joining the religious order of the Pauline Brothers, which had the Monastery of the Virgin Mary in Częstochowa (known also as the Bright Mountain) in its care. He wrote in a 20 February 1893 letter to the prior of the monastery:
I envy you, Reverend Father, this port, in which you stand, this pinnacle, from which you can look down on the grey lowlands, swarming with crowds that do not know either the where to? or the what for? I envy you and I long for just such a harbor, but with the longing which comes from knowing the worth of all that which amuses the world, in which the world delights, of what bewitches it, so that it dances its wild sarabande of thoughtless life. … Mindful of your goodness, Respected Father, and your broad outlook, I take the liberty of asking you to kindly inform me of the steps one should take to be accepted into the novitiate at The Bright Mountain.
The prior’s answer has not been preserved, but the letter certainly shows Reymont’s ability for stylized expression, an unquestionable quality of his literary works.
Before returning to work on the railways, Reymont went to visit a friend in Częstochowa, where he was introduced to a group of spiritualists, and the interest he then acquired in supernatural phenomena not only proved lasting but led him eventually to write what is undoubtedly his weakest novel, Wampir (1911, Vampire). Reymont gave an account of this meeting in a letter to his brother Franciszek:
I went to visit him at his home, but he wasn’t there, and I was taken to the place he was at.… I come in, a large drawing room, filled with as many as thirty odd persons; they all welcome me with strangely composed faces, rising from their seats. Mr. P. comes close to me and bowing his head whispers: “Be greeted.” This astonishes me and I say some words of explanation to him, but he retreats into the drawing room and all the people gathered there file past me, bowing their heads and whispering: “Be greeted.” Imagine my astonishment. Eventually I am told I have found myself in the circle of well-known spiritualists, and I see before me the most prominent representatives of this pipe dream or science. … Mr. P. informs me that all of them have gathered here quite on purpose to make my acquaintance…. He further explains that they were told in their various spiritualist séances to gather on 10 II 90 at 7 o’clock in such and such a place in Częstochowa and await the arrival– and here they showed me the most detailed description of my person, a description as exact as a most faithful photograph would be. My head started spinning quite seriously. But they calmed me down and told me, that I have been chosen to proclaim and effect the victory of the spirit over matter, and that I am the successor of Swedenborg….
Reymont endured the work on the railways until December 1893, whereupon he moved to Warsaw.
The next year marks the beginning of Reymont’s literary career. He managed to have some prose pieces accepted by Warsaw journals, but the real breakthrough came in the early spring of that year, when Reymont brought a short story to Aleksander Świętochowski, the editor of Prawda (Truth), one of the major journals in Warsaw. Świętochowski decided the author had talent and on the spur of the moment suggested he join a group of pilgrims on the way to the Monastery of the Virgin Mary in Częstochowa and write his account of the pilgrimage. Reymont followed the suggestion, went with the pilgrims on foot to the monastery, and submitted his text, which was published in May in Prawda. The publication created a stir and established Reymont’s reputation as a talented and promising writer. It is, in fact, a perceptive and effective piece of reportage, testifying to Reymont’s powers of observation, his excellent memory for detail, and his abilities as narrator, and it can still be read with interest.
The year 1894 marked also Reymont’s first major trip abroad. He traveled to London via Berlin and Ostende with a Warsaw homeopath, Józef Drzewiecki, who was attending a meeting of the Theosophical Society. Reymont described his impressions of London, with a characteristic penchant for amplification, in a letter to his brother Franciszek, heading it with “My Dear” (he tried, but never learned English properly):
What can I tell you about this monstrous colossus of a city? It is so vast it’s beyond anybody’s imagination.… Incredible traffic, you have to wait for hours to find an opportunity to cross the street. In the streets you have to push your way through, they are so crowded. And what houses! What horses and what women. Yesterday I got lost in the British Museum and only with difficulty found my way out. The London docks … are a real wonder, there is none such in the world. Millions of omnibuses. A dense network of rail-lines both above and underground.
Reymont returned to Warsaw via Paris, which became in the years to come one of his most frequently visited cities, despite the fact that he more than once expressed his abhorrence for the city: “What can one say about Paris,” he wrote in a January 1897 letter, “about this whorehouse of the world, this gutter into which flows all the dirt—other than that it is hideous, despite the appearances of splendor, and that it is stupid, despite its level of civilization.” In 1896 he traveled to Rome and other Italian cities. These first journeys were the beginning of Reymont’s wanderlust: for the rest of his life he could not stay put in one place for long. He constantly moved in the lands of partitioned Poland from Warsaw to Kraków, Poznari, the mountain resort Zakopane, country estates of his acquaintances, and his father’s farm, or he traveled abroad, to Paris, Nice, the coast of Bretagne, Florence, Spain, and even the United States, where he went in 1919 and again in 1920.
In the years following his 1893 move to Warsaw, Reymont published short stories, sketches, and travelogues in a variety of Polish journals, and his first two novels were serialized and then published in book form by Gebethner and Wolff, one of the major publishers of the time. He became acquainted with the major literary figures in Warsaw, Kraków, and Lwów, including Miriam Przesmycki, one of the most important critics of the burgeoning literary movement known as Young Poland; the leading writers of the movement, Stanislaw Przybyszewski, novelist and playwright, and Stanislaw Wyspiański, painter and playwright; and two other prominent critics, Jan Lorentowicz and Ignacy Matuszewski. Lorentowicz introduced Reymont to France and taught him some French (though not enough to read Honoré de Balzac, Guy de Maupassant, or Emile Zola in the original), and it was apparently Matuszewski who dissuaded him from writing a novel about the French peasants and suggested that rather than “correcting” Zola’s depiction of peasants in La Terre (Earth, 1887), he should write a novel about the Polish peasants, with whose life he was after all much better acquainted.
In 1895 Reymont contracted with Gebethner and Wolff for a novel about Łódź, a city in central Poland that in the 1880s and 1890s became a major industrial center, a Polish Manchester, so called on account of its growing textile industry. He spent some time in Łódź in 1896, gathering materials and writing his novel (he wrote parts of it in Paris), which under the title Ziemia obiecana (translated as The Promised Land, 1927) first appeared serially and then in book form in 1899. Even before its publication in book form the novel was highly praised by some critics but created a sharp controversy and debate in Łódź itself.
In 1896 Reymont became engaged to Aurelia Szacnajder Szablowska, a married woman who was trying to obtain a divorce. She was not the first nor the last married woman with whom Reymont fell in love; in fact, he seems to have been attracted to them only. Reymont was a frenetically amorous and passionate man, at least judging by his love letters and his fiction. His first love was Stefania Kluge, a young and newly married wife of a stationmaster of one of the stations on the Warsaw-Vienna Railway Line. Their romance in 1889 lasted two months and ended in Reymont’s disappointment. He claimed that the son to whom Kluge gave birth was his child, and apparently he tried to shoot himself because he could not claim paternity. The boy later died, which according to Reymont’s statement brought him some relief. Reymont’s second love was another married woman, Antonina Szczygielska, with whom he fell in love in 1892 and broke off with two years later.
These early emotional involvements occurred in the sober ambience of what is known in Polish literary history as Positivism, a literary and cultural movement that stressed so-called organic work as the way to improve the lot of the Polish nation—educating the peasants, learning of professions by impoverished nobility, and raising the economic and civilizational level of Polish society. Reymont remained largely unaffected by the Positivist ideals, deriving his emotional models from Romanticism. Positivism gave way to what became known as the Young Poland movement— neo-Romantic, modernist, with a prose style invaded by poeticism. Love was viewed as sexual passion, whose consequences for the artist, exalted in his role by the doctrine of art for art’s sake, were negative, as they weakened his creative power. The language of lovers’ dialogues, confessions, and declarations acquired characteristics to which it is now difficult not to react with some hilarity. Such is, in fact, the language of Reymont’s love letters, and it is also characteristic of many love scenes in his fiction.
How he addressed Szacnajder-Szablowska is not known, for his letters to her have not been preserved, but it appears that she may not have put Reymont into raptures, nor into despair, though they did have to wait six years before they were able to get married. The marriage almost faltered and was probably saved only by the derailment, in July 1900, of a train in which Reymont was traveling. Earlier in the year Reymont had met Wanda Szczuka in Zakopane. She was a few years older than Reymont, apparently quite attractive and lady-like, from a good family, and was a highly independent and active woman. When Reymont met her she was already separated from her husband and taking care of their teenage children. Reymont fell passionately in love with her and managed to be with her alone for two days in Kraków a few months later. A correspondence ensued (though only Reymont’s letters have survived), from which one can definitely gather that the beautiful, liberated woman reciprocated Reymont’s ardent passion: “My longed-for, my One and Only!” he wrote on 4 April 1900, bemoaning the news that the meeting he was trying to arrange with her was “not to be”:
I have just received your cable.
So it is not to be, not to be! No, I cannot believe it; I cannot believe that I will not see you here, that my most earnest wishes won’t be fulfilled. My God, and what haven’t I dreamt about this moment of meeting you, how wonderful and ravenous I have made it in my imagination….
And now, now I feel like howling in my rage against fate, and against myself. You so Mine, so stupendous, so marvelous, my Lady, my Demon— why aren’t you here, why?
I would have filled with kisses your entire life, I would have taken possession of it for ever, burn it through with this fire that consumes me and scorches me, o how it scorches me!
Yet, despite his protestations of love and desire, Reymont was all this time deceiving her, as he continued his liaison with Szacnajder-Szablowska, visiting her, while he stayed in the country, several times in Warsaw, where he had an apartment. At the same time he could not make himself visit Szczuka in Zakopane, giving various excuses, which must have raised Szczuka’s suspicions, for she started questioning him about the sincerity of his feelings. His protestations were vehement, though somewhat disingenuous. Finally, in July 1900, he decided to travel to her, explain himself, and perhaps come to a firm decision. But the train that Reymont took from Warsaw to obtain his Russian passport (Zakopane and Kraków were then in a foreign country, the Austro-Hungarian Empire) derailed near Warsaw, and Reymont was seriously hurt in the accident. He was taken to a Warsaw hospital, from which he wrote a few more letters to Szczuka. She also wrote to him, and some of her letters must have fallen into Szacnajder-Szablowska’s hands, for she traveled to Zakopane, and Szczuka soon asked Reymont to return her letters to him (which he did).
Reymont’s last frenetic love was for Wanda Toczydlowska, married to a man who had tuberculosis. She was a rather sensible woman, mother of two boys (a third was born while Reymont was writing fiery love letters to her), and while she apparently now and again reciprocated Reymont’s sentiments, she was mindful of maintaining her good reputation and not hurting her husband. Reymont, by this time himself married, met her in Kraków in 1907 and then saw her at least once again. But most of the time “the hunger of his eyes” for her had to be satisfied with photographs she had sent him. Yet, despite her relative aloofness, he continued to write to her for more than a year and even as late as 1912, when she asked that he return her letters (which have not been preserved). Apart from his feelings of fervid love, he had compassion for her, since she had chosen duty over the call of the heart, and for Reymont the heart had rights exceeding all else.
While Reymont apparently did not attain the bliss of mutually satisfying passion, he still highly valued being madly infatuated and possessed by rapturous and ravenous emotion. The pursuit of love, however unrequited, was its own reward, since being in the grip of erotic passion made life worth living, when it would otherwise be tiresome, hardly bearable, and common. Critics and biographers have shown the extent to which Reymont’s love for the two Wandas influenced the image of the vampire-like Miss Daisy in his novel Wampir (in her appearance she shares features of both women) as well as the conclusion of the novel: the protagonist, Zenon, has a loving but ordinary fiancée as well as another woman who loves him but chooses to marry somebody else, but he shakes loose of the two attachments and follows Miss Daisy, the vampire, wherever the enticement will lead.
Reymont’s accident had far-reaching consequences for the last two decades of his life. It ended one possibility of marriage and eventually led to another. The money he received in compensation for his injuries eased his financial circumstances, but his health suffered, and his tendency to hypochondria increased. The finances, helped by the royalties from his publications, allowed him to indulge fully his passion for traveling, and his ailments justified his long stays abroad. The money also helped Szacnajder-Szablowska to complete her divorce proceedings in the Vatican, and she and Reymont were finally married in July 1902 in Kraków. The wedding was attended by several prominent writers and artists, including Wyspiański, Przesmycki, the poet Kazimierz Tetmajer, and Wilhelm Feldman, editor of the important literary and cultural journal Krytyka.
In the same year, Reymont’s second major novel, Chłopi, began appearing in serial form in the journal Tygodnik Ilustrowany (Illustrated Weekly). Reymont had already contracted for the writing of the novel in 1897, but he took time in writing it, confiding to his brother in a letter of May 1898 that he planned to make it his masterpiece. Volume one was serialized in 1902, volume two in 1903, both meeting with a somewhat unfavorable reception by the readers. Volume three did not appear until 1905-1906, and volume four as late as 1908. The novel was also published serially in other periodicals in Kraków and Poznań, and it appeared in book form between 1904 and 1909 in a version that Reymont thoroughly reworked; moreover, he restored in the book version all the deleted passages, which the editors of Tygodnik Ilustrowany thought might be offensive either to the mentality of its principally middle-class readers or to the Russian censor in Warsaw.
The Russian defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, as well as the revolution of 1905, which strongly affected the Polish part of the Russian Empire and the political realignments in the international arena that followed, changed the mood of Polish society and had a far-reaching impact on Polish literature. As the prominent critic Karol Irzykowski wrote: “Poetry fell on its knees in servile humility before the genius of revolution…. No one had the courage to stay by the side of the abandoned flag of the Young Poland, on which it was written: art for art’s sake and a passionate disdain for politics and social activism.”
The Russo-Japanese conflict revealed the weakness of Russia, and the concessions that the tsar made under the pressure of revolutionary events included the granting of a constitution, the relative relaxation of censorship, the creation of the first quasi-parliamentary institution in Russia (the Duma), and the first semi-democratic elections, in which the Poles under Russian rule were allowed to participate. These developments heightened the political atmosphere, revealed hidden aspirations, sharpened ideological divisions, and emboldened Polish hopes for achieving at least greater autonomy, if not independence. As Norman Davies put it: “Loyalists grew more loyal, critics grew more critical, militants more militant, Poles more Polish.”
The relaxation of censorship had an immediate effect on Polish writing and publishing. Reymont and his publishers took advantage of the more liberal rules: the post-1905 editions of Chłopi, for instance, make the suppressed national theme more explicit. At the same time, Reymont’s minor pieces written during this period became more topical and no longer concentrated on themes typical of the prerevolutionary writings of Young Poland writers.
Among the pieces, most of them short or novella-length, one that still can be read with interest is Reymont’s reportage of roughly three weeks of revolutionary upheaval in Warsaw. It is reportage par excellence, written by an emotionally involved witness of events, and it was published with photographs in a Warsaw weekly almost simultaneously as the events were unfolding in the Warsaw streets. There is no attempt to analyze the significance from a political point of view, but the emphasis is on directness, detail, and the dramatic character of the streets of Warsaw coming alive with crowds, banners, and speeches in an upsurge of national and working-class sentiment despite police action. But however sympathetic Reymont was to the national cause and the worker’s plight, the transformation that the behavior of people underwent in 1905 and the collapse of order in all of Russia set Reymont radically against violence and violent change.
Politically and ideologically Reymont’s sympathies were with the National League, soon to become the National Democratic Party, a right-wing, nationalist, autonomist, and anti-Jewish movement. Reymont was on friendly terms with its leader, Roman Dmowski (himself a minor novelist), who had persuaded Reymont to write an historical novel that would depict the solidarity between nobility and peasantry in the struggle for Polish independence. Though Reymont was not overtly nationalistic, Dmowski’s political thought and program certainly influenced his own ideological sentiments, and patriotic and political themes became dominant in his writings, although he continued to work on new chapters of the Gothic-spiritualist Wampir.
Reymont’s work is extremely uneven, and even his best pieces include passages that are quite atrocious. Apart from early verse and some attempts at writing plays, his writings consist of literary reportage, short stories, novellas, and novels. The verse and the plays are negligible, and so are many of his short stories: their intellectual content is slight; the characters are bundles of emotions rather than psychological portraits; the plots are over-dramatized; and the style is often shrill, even hysterical. Among the novels, the three-volume historical novel Rok 1794 (1913-1918, The Year 1794), which deals with the Kosciuszko insurrection against Russian rule and its sociopolitical background, is readable and interesting as a stylistic experiment. It has also some good satirical passages, but it is spoiled by its obvious didactic tendency and a somewhat simpleminded conception of history. Its one remarkable feature is the way it treats the battle scenes, in which Reymont departed from the paradigmatic models created by Sienkiewicz and Stefan Zeromski in their historical novels. While in their works most of the battle scenes are grand clashes of regular armies, in Reymont’s novel the clash is between revolting crowds fighting regular troops in street battles, using revolutionary ferocity and primitive weapons.
Of Reymont’s five major novels on contemporary themes, the first two, Komediantka and Fermenty (which constitutes a sequel), retain some interest as depictions of the struggles of theatrical groups to make a living at their profession, which was viewed by large sections of society as scandalous and immoral, and of country life and provincial types. The actors in Komediantka discuss art and the high calling of the artist in terms characteristic of the rising Young Poland movement (with its shibboleth of art for art’s sake) and dream of success and fame, but their exaltation of art is undercut by the actual conditions of their work, the intrigues and rivalries, and their mediocre talents. In both novels the main character is a young woman, Janka Orlowska, who rebels against the provincialism, narrow horizons, dreariness, and coarseness of country and small-town life. She runs away against the wishes of her father and becomes an actress, only to experience rivalry, in-fighting, poverty, seduction, and pregnancy. Disillusioned and emotionally devastated, she attempts suicide, is saved, and tries to cope with the failure of her ambition. In Fermenty, having returned to her father, she eventually marries a self-made man of peasant stock who becomes a fairly well-to-do landowner and can boast of a mansion, thanks to the frugality and business acumen of his father. Both works may be described as attempts at a psychological novel, and as such are complete failures. Reymont allows readers access to the innermost thoughts and feelings of the main character, through hyperbolic, shrill, hysterical, and often confusing interior monologues. More realistic and in fact more interesting is the divided self of her father, who performs two official functions in the same single office, that of a stationmaster and that of an office clerk, and writes official memoranda to himself. There are also some memorable character sketches of deranged individuals and of estate owners, and of several peasants, among whom is the peasant couple who have turned their son into a squire.
Ziemia obiecana, Reymont’s third major novel, is almost free of the rhapsodizing lyricism and psycheprobing that mar Fermenty. It tells the story of several dozen characters who have money, are trying to make money, or have no money. The theme of money is, in fact, one of the common denominators of almost everything that happens in the novel, for even those few characters who see moneymaking as demeaning or dehumanizing are defined by their negative attitude to it. Characters are shown calculating in their heads, on their cuffs, in notebooks, on restaurant tables, in offices, and during bargaining and usurious lending. Promissory notes, insurance, loans, bankruptcy, arson to avoid bankruptcy, trade deals, extreme poverty, and ostentatious luxury characterize the life of Łódź society. Men and women are assessed according to their financial worth, with the assets counted in real estate, turnover, credit-worthiness, and business clout; women are attractive not only because of their looks but also because of their potential dowries and the amount of money their fathers have invested in their education and accomplishments.
The novel takes place sometime in the 1880s. The protagonist, Karol Borowiecki, comes from Polish landed nobility, not particularly noted for its business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit; but because of his own circumstances and of the ideas of so-called Polish Positivists, he is obsessed with the goal of entering the ranks of textile barons. He is valued for his expertise as a chemist (he is an expert in dyes) and managerial skills, but he forms a business partnership with a Jew, Moryc Welt, and a German, Max Baum. These three characters have two things in common at the beginning of the novel: they have no capital, and they want to make big money. Their efforts at first as partners and then as rivals, and their relations with the already rich and well-established textile barons and all kinds of other characters, including some excellently drawn women characters, constitute the main plot of the novel. The drawing of the characters, both major and minor, is in fact one of the strengths of the novel.
Another striking quality is the skillful sequencing, juxtaposition, and interweaving of scenes and episodes depicting the behavior of the rich and the powerful, the middle and the aspiring, and the miserable and the struggling. There are scenes in drawing rooms and offices, factories and inns, workers’ hovels and country houses, and on the streets and in shops, all of which together compose a vast picture of a modern industrial city, its dynamics, romance, and evil. An interesting aspect of the novel is the depiction of the rise of the working class, made up principally of Polish peasants-turned-workers but also of some poorer Jews, although Reymont had as yet no sense of the sociopolitical significance of the phenomenon. And there is yet another interesting theme in this rich novel: the relations among the three principal ethnic groups, the Poles, the Jews, and the Germans, their collective characteristics and their gradual merging into a middle class with some cultural aspirations mainly as a form of matching their worth in wealth and importance. One of the features of this merging is what is described as salonowa asymilacja (drawing-room assimilation) of the Jewish element, that is, the still rather superficial polonization, with Poles and Jews, mixing not always comfortably at social and cultural evenings. The negative attitude of the Jewish element to the menace of a Polish infusion into business and industry, and of the Polish element toward the obsession with money and its unscrupulous pursuit by the Jews, illustrate one aspect of the growth of modern anti-Semitism in Polish society.
The city of Łódź grows as a result of unscrupulous self-interest, competition, ingenuity, and hard labor, until it not only encroaches on the villages and on nature but transforms them into their opposites: rows of houses, factories with chimneys, palaces, dying trees, mud, movement, trade, production, and fortunes. The contrast with country folk, whether nobility or peasantry, and with the rhythms of country life is sharp and radical. Łódź creates a new breed of man: the Lodzermensch, of whom the Polish character Stach Wilczek, of peasant stock, is a good second-generation example. Wilczek, like some of the older Jewish types of Lodzermenschen, the Mendelsohns, Grunspans, and Grosglics, is totally unscrupulous, greedy, and enormously ambitious. He loves the “promised land” as “a predatory animal loves the wild jungle full of prey.” But while he is ready to “suck all the gold” out of the “promised land,” it is the older generation, the Jewish tycoons as well as the more solid though ruthlessly exploitative German potentates, the Bucholzs and Kesslers, who have created the tremendous power of the city. It becomes a dynamic center of exchange and of production maximized by the increasing use of machinery, to which workers become enslaved and which sometimes maims or kills them. In one sense, then, the land of promise for the impoverished and often desperate peasants is a monument to human ingenuity and energy, the power of money and the effect of hard labor; in another it is a cite infernale. Yet, the novel ends on an utterly false note: at some point in the narrative Borowiecki, to avoid utter ruin of his enterprise when a fire hits his factory, breaks with his Polish fiancée, a woman of sweetness and noble sentiments, to marry a “plump, round-eyed” heiress to the great fortune of a German textile baron. When he meets his former fiancée at the end of the novel, he writes her a check for the charity she runs for poor children, for, as he puts it to himself: “I have gambled away my own happiness. Now I can only create it for others.”
Reymont fully revealed and articulated his strong disapproval of industrialization and the growth of large cities in a 1907 short story, “Cmentarzysko” (Burial Ground). “Cmentarzysko” is a truly apocalyptic piece, both in its style and in its vision, and it was clearly influenced by the events of the 1905 revolution. In a huge industrial city whose description resembles Łódź, in which the factories and the smoking chimneys have denatured the earth and sky, workers go on strike in one of the oldest and largest factories. The owner, an industrial potentate, declares a lockout, expecting the starving workers to come back and beg him to open the factory. But they do not return to work, and the owner suffers agonies seeing his machines idle, the halls empty, and hearing no siren in the morning calling to workers. Yet, he persists in keeping the factory closed, until one morning he does not hear any sirens at all in the city. The deadly silence is followed by a revolutionary upheaval, in which the masses kill and destroy, exacting cruel revenge for years of exploitation and inhuman treatment: “They kill in the name of freedom. They kill in the name of equality. They kill in the name of fraternity.” The successful revolution brings an era of universal happiness to the city, which becomes all-powerful, ruling over the world. Its inhabitants, who worship an “idol on a throne of rubies,” have lost all spirituality; they are all equally satiated, virtuous, puffed up with pride, and lacking all individuality. They are “like maggots in a heap of manure.” And hence this “vampire-city” cannot last; it is doomed to destruction. As death gradually takes away its inhabitants, the city becomes overgrown with forest. Nature comes back, and under its luxuriant growth and bustling life the city is buried. The vision, though apocalyptically powerful, lacks intellectual content (for example, there is no ecological motivation) and is a mere exercise in style.
Ziemia obiecana is probably a better novel than Chłopi: it is shorter, and thus more compact; it impresses with the skill with which Reymont integrates the many subplots with the overall design of depicting the growth of a modern industrial city and how it subordinates personal fortunes and actions to it; and the theme allows Reymont to be naturalistic or realistic in his descriptions and delineation of character, offering credible motivation and passion instead of indulging his lyrical and rhapsodizing tendencies.
But it was the epic Chłopi that Reymont wanted to make his principal masterpiece and which earned him the Nobel Prize. Peasant life and character had appeared early in Reymont’s writings and were the subject of several short stories and novellas before the writing of Chłopi. Perhaps the most powerful and realistic is the novella Sprawiedliwie (1899, Justice is Done). It tells the story of a young peasant who manages to escape from prison and is hidden by his mother in her farmhouse. The authorities begin to search for him, and the entire village community becomes in one way or another involved. The young man plans to run away to America but misses his chance and hides near the village. Some peasants discover his hiding place and try to capture him. To avoid being caught he sets fire to a barnhouse, and the flames spread to other houses, setting the whole village ablaze. Enraged, the peasants capture him and throw him into the flames as his mother watches his horrible death. Before she dies of a stroke, she exclaims ’Justice is done,” thus recognizing that her son deserved to be punished by the community to which he had done such terrible harm. The novella includes many elements that appear in Chłopi, as Reymont’s real focus is on the life and character of the entire village community.
Chłopi is a huge novel, more than one thousand pages long and teeming with characters— some larger than life, others minor and petty, some well-to-do, others extremely poor, but almost all driven by either the hunger for land and material objects or abject poverty. It skillfully weaves together several plots and subplots and is rich in episode and incident, but perhaps its most striking feature that provides unity to all this multifariousness is the role of Nature. Just as in Ziemia obiecana the principal protagonist is the city, so in Chłopi the principal protagonist is the community of the village Lipce.
The novel is divided into four parts, subtitled respectively Fesien, Zima, Wiosna, and Lato (Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer). Thus, the four seasons with their characteristic weather affect the economy, the character of work and activity, the well-being and the mood of the villagers, as well as their religious life and rituals, acting as an overall framework in which the dramas of village life play themselves out. The changes in the weather are treated both realistically and symbolically; pathetic fallacy does occur, but overall Nature is beyond human control— it is powerful, relentless, but also beautiful and full of blessings. It has to be fought against, made to yield after hard labor, but it is also life-giving, sustaining, and bountiful. Its major asset is the land itself, the soil, which evokes in the peasant heart hunger, greed, envy, passion, and love. But Nature for the novelist is also an inspiration and an opportunity to be evocative and poetic, and in Chłopi the descriptions of the seasons, of the forests and fields, the changing colors, the hues and aspects of the water, and the effects that the sun, moon, clouds, rain, snow, and wind have on the earth and its flora are on the whole done in a poetic style that only occasionally degenerates into poeticism.
While individual fates and stories are narrated and interwoven, the community as a whole becomes now and again a direct protagonist, an actor in the novel. Its gatherings, as in the church, in processions, at funerals, christenings and weddings, in the Jewish inn, its moments of solidarity and its inner divisions, its stratification, its common set of beliefs and its wisdom, as well as its shared passions, are notably in the foreground. Reymont uses for the community the word naród, which in the case of Lipce stands for the people, but as the story develops, begins to acquire the sense of nation.
What divides the community are hunger for land— differences in wealth, and hence status, and thus envy, which breeds conflict, often violent— and gender, for men and women do form two distinct groups, needing each other and yet in permanent tension. What unites the community are religion and the priest, especially during ceremonies and in the face of the priest’s fulminations against sin and promises of punishment, when naród feels deep contrition and sighs heartily for God’s forgiveness. Another unifying factor (though some characters, such as the blacksmith and the miller, break this solidarity) is the local squire. The older members of the community still remember the times of serfdom, and there is a deep-seated distrust of the manor and a burning resentment about the wood, which the village regarded as its communal property but which the squire regards as his property to sell. An additional factor that unites the villagers, and especially the women, is the “painted bird” of the village, Jagna, who is beautiful, different, and quite attractive to men. Finally, toward the end of the novel there emerges a growing sense of the alien character of the officials and the awakening of the peasants’ national consciousness, resulting in a conflict over the Russian-language school, with the community making clear its preference for a Polish-language school.
While the framework of the seasons provides basic unity to the novel, there is nevertheless a clear contrast between the first two volumes and the last. The first two volumes have a highly dramatic character, while the last two are more like a chronicle that ends in a dramatic event: the expulsion of a young and beautiful woman from the village community. What makes the first two volumes dramatic is a dual conflict: the clash between father and son and the violent quarrel between the village community and the squire over the forest. The father-son conflict is made particularly intense by the overtones of incest. Maciej Boryna, the richest peasant in the village, who has already buried two wives, falls in love with Jagna, the young beauty of the village, and marries her. Jagna is in love with Boryna’s son, Antek, who is also powerfully attracted to her, but she is prevailed upon by her mother to marry the old Boryna in expectation of a land deed, which he does make to the young wife, thus dispossessing the son and his family of a significant part of their inheritance. Intense hatred flares up between Maciej and Antek as the father becomes suspicious and then certain of his wife and his son meeting secretly. In fact, they do meet and make passionate love (one such scene is described by Reymont in his particularly hyperbolic style, which modern audiences may find unreadable). In the end Antek and his family are turned out of the house that they share with Maciej and Jagna, and at some point old Boryna’s jealousy and hatred reach a point at which he tries to kill both of them. They escape, but Maciej now makes Jagna’s life in the house unbearable.
The stalemate is resolved when the love-hate plot intersects suddenly with the village-manor conflict. The villagers regard the forest that is owned by the squire as rightfully theirs because of an immemorial use they have made of it, as a source of firewood and timber for building. When the landlord sells the forest to some Jewish tradesmen to pay off a debt he owes, and they in turn send a team of loggers to cut its trees, the villagers are aroused to absolute fury and attack the loggers with pitchforks and clubs. The loggers eventually retreat, but the second part of a battle of almost Homeric proportions follows when manor servants and officials come to the rescue of the loggers. In the ensuing battle old Boryna is struck unconscious by the squire’s forester, who is in turn killed by Antek. The peasants are victorious, and as they return to the village, old Boryna, who is carried on a cart, briefly regains consciousness and recognizes his son, and a sort of reconciliation occurs. As Antek is placed in a town prison, charged with murder, and Boryna lies unconscious in his house, Antek’s wife, Hanka, returns to the house to assert the claim to her inheritance and eventually turns Jagna out. Boryna remains unconscious, but toward the end of the summer he rises from his bed, goes out into the fields, and dies as a peasant should, performing as his last act the highly symbolic scene of sowing. But what he sows is not grain but soil, thus emphasizing the central peasant value: land.
The drama of the last two volumes of Chłopi gradually gathers in intensity but with the inexorability of a Greek tragedy. It is the drama of Jagna, a person of exceptional sensibility, radically non-peasant in character, lacking the typical attachment to (and greed for) land or material objects, aspiring to a different life. She lives for her emotions and their fulfillment, which replicate, in a way at least, Reymont’s own yearning to rise above his origin and ordinary life, and the yearnings of several of Reymont’s major characters. Jagna, the beautiful widow, who cannot be satisfied with a peasant existence, scandalizes the village community with her love affairs with the village mayor and then with a young cleric who is being educated by his parents to become a priest. Her relationship with her husband’s son, her affairs, her attractiveness, and her “otherness” arouse the hatred and jealousy of the women of the village, and of their men, who want but cannot have her. Incited by the mother of the saintly cleric and by the mayor’s wife, the women and their men perform the act of what amounts to pharmakon (poison and cure): bloodied and bound Jagna is driven out of the village and dropped outside its boundaries.
One of the most interesting aspects of Reymont’s depiction of the peasant character is a kind of peasant wisdom, which is often expressed by women. The language of Chłopi is the standard Polish of Reymont’s time in descriptions and narration, but in dialogue and inner monologue it is partly dialect. The wisdom is usually couched in the dialectally stylized speech, and it comes in short, pithy sentences that resemble proverbs and maxims. There is wisdom for every occasion so that, taken together, all of this wisdom is riddled with contradictions, statements that oppose each other and moral justifications that have their common ground in experience and folk tradition rather than in ethics, religious morality, the Catholic catechism, or the Ten Commandments.
Chłopi is marred by occasional passages of pure bathos or what may only be described as overemotional, hysterical style, as well as by exaggerated poeticism in some of the descriptions of nature and landscape. It is, nevertheless, a major work, a flawed yet in some ways fascinating masterpiece, massive in its overall effect and powerfully dramatic at times.
Reymont’s Wampir deserves some note, despite the fact that as a novel it is an irredeemable failure. It resembles in some parts Reymont’s early story “W palarni opium” (In the Smoking-Room of Opium), which apparently describes an actual experience of Reymont’s when he visited London in 1894. Some of the “visions” in the novel have a similar quality, but what is worse, it gives the occasional impression of having been written “under the influence.” But it is an ambitious book.
The setting is London, a colossus of a city almost continuously enveloped in impenetrable mist and fog, unless it rains. The atmosphere, both literally and metaphorically, is dark, gloomy, and foreboding. The characters are an English family made up of retired Mr. Bartlett; his daughter and son, Betsy and Joe; two aunts, Ellen and Dolly; and a friend of the family and fiancée of Betsy, Zenon, also called Mr. Zen, who is a Polish writer living in London. All are enveloped in the mist of unknowing and in a quest, while wisdom is represented by a Hindu, Mahatma Guru, who came to London to ask questions of European civilization. Apart from Zenon, the other central character is Miss Daisy, who embodies the uncanny, demonic, and destructive forces in the universe. She seems to be able to be in two places at once, has penetrating sapphire eyes and “beautiful steep breasts,” and is said to represent supreme danger; but because of her beauty and mysteriousness, she has strong attraction for Zenon, the European skeptic. He loves Betsy but is powerfully drawn to Miss Daisy, and significantly, while in her presence, he becomes emptied of his self, a mere receptacle, or a confused void, which responds to her pull like that of a magnet. He witnesses (or hallucinates) a frantic dance of expiation of the members of the Sect of Spiritualist Flagellants; he transports himself to the ruins of some abbey or castle, where, falling through the floor into an underground chamber, he sees the emergence of the pagan idol Bafomet from within a flower of flames and observes Miss Daisy placing herself between Bafomet’s knees and then lying prostrate in the shape of a cross at his feet while the shadow of a green-eyed panther violates her body. Meanwhile, Joe abandons the spiritualist sect to achieve higher initiation and splits himself into an identical double, a practice that eventually lands him in a hospital and permanently removes him from the realms of reality.
Wampir has many elements of a Gothic novel, even though that is not what Reymont was trying to write. The description of a séance with Madame Blavatsky, the mention of H. S. Olcott (leader of American Spiritualists and author of an 1891 essay on “The Vampire”), and the character Mahatma Guru, another real person, make Reymont’s novel a probe of a more serious nature. But two things vitiate the attempt: one of them is Reymont’s basically unphilosophical mind; the other is the autobiographical element that intrudes on the novelistic design. (In his letters to Toczydlowska, he addressed her sometimes as Miss Daisy.) The one interesting aspect of the novel is its language, but the hyperbolic style of some passages also contributes to its failure as a literary work.
Reymont planned a sequel to Chłopi but never managed to write it. In 1919 and again in 1920 he went to the United States, his mission being to seek funds for the impoverished Polish state. These two trips brought him in contact with the large Polish peasant immigration to America, and his planned novel was to depict their often harsh conditions of life and work and the impact on their language and behavior of an entirely different civilization. But seriously ailing in the last years of his life, he managed to write only a few short stories, one of which depicts the struggle of Polish Catholics against the established Irish Catholic hierarchy and priests, who wanted to subordinate Polish peasants’ religious life to their own jurisdiction and thereby increase their revenues.
Reymont’ last major work is of some interest, as it predates and in a way anticipates George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945). It is an extended parable, a novella rather than a novel, whose major theme is the immemorial mastery and power established by human beings over the world of animals. At the same time it is a political allegory whose thrust is directed against the futility of seeking utopia. A dog by the name of Rex, who had been pampered by his owner, suddenly finds himself deprived of a privileged status in the household and subjected to cruel treatment. Rex revolts, runs away to the forest, and raises a mutiny among wild animals against human power. Gathering them under his leadership, Rex takes them on a quest for a land of promise, a paradise; but unable to find it, the animals revolt once again, this time against their leader, and lynch Rex. They decide to submit to human beings, but unable to find them, worship a gorilla. The intellectual content of the novella is slight, and thus the comparison with Orwell’s Animal Farm is only superficial.
Reymont was a realist in detail, a naturalist in his choice of imagery, a poet in his descriptions of landscape and of nature in general, a sentimentalist (Dickensian) as far as social conscience was concerned, a humorist with an almost Gogolian eye for the human grotesque, and a spiritualist who fervently believed in the afterlife. He was a man of feeling of the most passionate kind in matters of love, and he had a tendency for amplification, which pushed his two major novels into the epic mode. He was no psychologist and no intellectual, but he was open to spiritual and ideological currents of his time.
Despite his frequent travels and stays in major cities, Reymont seems to have remained basically a country soul, not a paysan at heart, but certainly a rustic, steeped in folk culture and mentality, in rural landscape, in mythical earthiness. Depending on the setting, rural or urban, human behavior is given a different value in his writings. Boryna dies differently than the industrialist Bucholz; church processions are different than the celebration of victory by London crowds.
The underlying theme of all of Reymont’s novels is the dissatisfaction of characters with their condition of life and an aspiration to find a higher place of existence: to enter the temple of theatrical art, to make money, to acquire more land, to find a satisfying emotional life, to pursue the supernatural and the uncanny. This quest to transcend one’s own station and condition is characteristic of Reymont himself.
Yet, when the Nobel Prize descended upon him suddenly and unexpectedly, Reymont was already too ill to enjoy the benefits of riches and fame. He could not go to the ceremonies in Stockholm, which ended up being canceled because the only other laureate for 1924, Physiology/Medicine winner Willem Einthoven, could not attend either. Reymont died a year later, on 5 December 1925.
Did Władyslaw Reymont deserve the Nobel Prize? In perspective the answer has to be in the negative, especially if it is remembered that two of the three other main candidates that year were Thomas Mann (who won in 1929) and Thomas Hardy. Another Polish writer, Reymont’s contemporary, Stefan Zeromski, was the favorite of Polish lobbyists, but the Swedish Academy was reluctant to award the prize to him because he had recently published a book called Wiatr od morza (Wind from the Sea), which clearly displayed anti-German sentiments. So Reymont was chosen instead on the strength principally of Chłopi, a novel that had been translated into German and fit well with the interest in a socially exotic yet potentially powerful layer of European society.
Reymont we Francji: Listy do ttumacza “Chtopów” F.-L. Schoella, edited by Bronislaw Miazgowski (Warsaw: PIW, 1967);
Reymont w Ameryce: Listy do Wojciecha Morawskiego, edited by Leon Orlowski (Warsaw: PIW, 1970);
Listy do Rodziny, edited by Tomasz Jodełka-Burzecki and Barbara Kocówna (Warsaw: PIW, 1975);
Miłość i katastrofa: Listy do Wandy Szczukowej, edited by Tomasz Jodełka-Burzecki (Warsaw: PIW, 1978);
Listy do Wandy Toczyłowskiej z lat 1907-1912, edited by Barbara Koc (Warsaw: PIW, 1981);
Władyslaw St. Reymont pod znakiem “panteizmu druku”: Fragmenty korespondencji z firmq Gebethner i Wolff (1894-1926), edited by Koc (Warsaw: Biblioteka Narodowa, 2000);
Korespondencja 1890-1925, edited by Koc (Warsaw: Ludowa Spoldzielnia Wydawnicza, 2002).
Waclaw Borowy, “Reymont,” Slavonic Review, 16 (1938): 439–448;
Ernest Boyd, “Władyslaw Reymont,” Saturday Review of Literature (29 November 1924): 317–319;
Lech Budrecki, Władyslaw Reymont: Zarys monograficzny (Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1953);
Roman Dmowski, “Nowa powieść spoleczna,” Przegląd Wszechpolski, 2 (1899): 80–90;
Dariusz Gawin, “Reymont i rewolucja,” in his Polska, wieczny romans: O związkach literatury i polityki w XX wieku (Kraków: Wydawnictwo DANTE, 2005), pp. 78–105;
Rupert Hughes, “Poland’s Peasant Novelist,” New York Times Magazine, 13 July 1919, pp. 10, 25;
Tomasz Jodełka-Burzecki, Reymont przy biurku: Z zagadnień warsztatowych (Warsaw: PIW, 1978);
Wojciech Kallas, “New Global Mapping: The City of Łódź in Władyslaw St. Reymont’s The Promised Land” Caietele Echinox, 5 (2004), <http://lett.ubbcluj.ro/~echinox/caiete5/l9.html>
Barbara Kocówna, Władysław Reymont (Warsaw: PWN, 1975);
Kocówna, ed., Reymont: Z dziejów recepcji twórczości (Warsaw: PWN, 1975);
Jerzy R. Krzyzanowski, Wladystaw Stanistaw Reymont (New York: Twayne, 1972);
Julian Krzyzanowski, Wladystaw Stanislaw Reymont: Twórca i dzielo (Lwów: Wydawnictwo Zakladu Narodowego im. Ossolińskich, 1937);
Stefan Lichański, “Chłopi” Władysława Reymonta (Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne, 1987);
Aleksander Lipatow, “Europeizm Władyslawa S. Reymonta jako źródlo jego sukcesu w Rosji,” Przeglqd Humanistyczny, 3 (2002): 29–33;
Magdalena Popiel, “Brzydota i patos cywilizacji. Ziemia Obiecana,” in her Oblicza wzniosloćci: Estetyka powieści mtodopolskiej (Kraków: Universitas, 1999), pp. 119–169;
Maria Rzeuska, “Chłopi” Reymonta (Warsaw: Towarzystwo Naukowe Warszawskie, 1950);
Franck Louis Schoell, “Etude sur le roman paysan naturaliste. D’Emile Zola a Ladislas Reymont,” Revue de la literature compare, 7 (1927): 254–299;
Kazimierz Wyka, Reymont, czyli, ucieczka do iyda, edited by Barbara Koc (Warsaw: PIW, 1979);
Tadeusz Zieliński, “The Peasant in Polish Literature,” Slavonic Review, 4 (1923–1924): 85–100.