Komediantka, 1896 (The Comedienne, 1920)
Ziemia obiecana, 1899 (The Promised Land, 1927)
Chłopi, 1904-1909 (4 volumes; The Peasants, 1924-1925)
Rok 1794, 1913-1918 (3 volumes)
“Pielgrzymka do Jasnej Góry,” 1895
Z ziemi chełmskiej, 1910
Za frontem, 1919
Za póẓno, pr. 1899
Reymont we Francji: Listy do tłumacza “Chłopów” F. L. Schoella, 1967 (letters)
Listy Władysława Stanislawa Reymonta do brata, 1969 (letters)
Reymont w Ameryce: Listy do Wojciecha Morawskiego, 1970 (letters)
Miłość i katastrofa: Listy do Wandy Szczukowej, 1978 (letters)
Listy do rodziny, 1980 (letters)
Pisma, 1921-1925, 1930-1932 (32 volumes)
The Polish novelist and short-story writer Władysław Reymont (RAY-muhnt) was the 1924 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was born Władysław Stanislaw Rejment, the son of a comparatively poor country church organist. His childhood was unhappy and far from promising; he was not a good student and so erratic in his efforts that he never completed school. He was apprenticed to various shops and trades but failed to hold any position long. His father, concerned about earning enough as organist and farmer to support his family, was unsympathetic and stern with the boy, and the mother’s piety merely accentuated his failures. Early on he developed an enthusiastic interest in the books his brother brought to him, and in solitude the family’s black sheep began to build the interest in literature that eventually made him one of Poland’s notable novelists. He was particularly interested in Julius Slowacki’s romantic historical novel Lilla Weneda (1840). When he discovered the historical novels of Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916), he read them eagerly, vowing to take them as a pattern for his own work.
His first adventures away from home were with a traveling theatrical company, which the penniless boy joined for a year. He later captured his experiences in The Comedienne.
When he returned from his theatrical venture, his father found employment for him on the Warsaw-Vienna railroad, where he managed to hold a job long enough to complete a considerable amount of reading. When he was about twenty-six years old, even though he had no funds, he decided to take a chance on establishing himself in Warsaw. He lived there in poverty and consoled himself by writing short stories, which were eventually accepted by the Kraków publication Mysl and the Warsaw Prawda. Having come to the attention of editors, Reymont managed to win an assignment to write a report on Jasna Góra, a Polish shrine at Czestochowa with which he was well acquainted, having spent some months there and having at one time considered becoming a lay brother at the shrine. The result was the 1895 collection “Pielgrzymka do Jasnej Góry” (a pilgrimage to Jasna Góra).
The next year saw the publication of the novel about his theatrical wanderings, The Comedienne, and that moderately successful work was followed by Fermenty in 1897. Reymont began to be known as a realistic writer who had considerable sympathy for the workers of Poland but very little faith in an industrialized society. His lack of enthusiasm for the then-prevalent positivistic faith in science and industry was even more marked in the novel The Promised Land, a severe criticism of industry and its leaders, so colorful and bitter in its content that certain passages were deleted by the censor. Like most of his work, this novel too reflected his own experience, here that of working in a factory in Lodz in 1897.
The positive side of his criticism of industrialized society was shown in what became the most well known of his novels, The Peasants. This work was written over a seven-year period, begun when, as a result of a serious injury, Reymont was forced to spend a year and a half in bed. In addition to Reymont’s underlying pessimistic and fatalistic point of view, the work also expressed his belief that the hard life of peasants contributed more to the attainment of human dignity than could city life.
Many critics judged that Reymont’s subsequent work failed to live up to the standards set by The Peasants. Having become interested in the spiritualism of Madame Blavatsky, he had begun writing stories that emphasized the psychological aspects of life. The results included two novels, Marzyciel (the dreamer) and Wampir (the vampire), which were not well received. Reymont regained some critical respect with his novel Rok 1794 (the year 1794), a story of eighteenth century Polish political and social life, but this book, too, was not as effective as the earlier emotional, turbulent books that depicted factory and peasant life.
In 1920 Reymont visited the United States, where he traveled to the larger cities to raise money for Polish relief. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1924 and was honored further the following year by a folk congress at which his novels and his social action were reviewed and praised. Reymont died in 1925 at the age of fifty-eight.