[Book Cover] ......... Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz

A historical novel set during the time when Nero was Caesar and master of the Roman Empire. The plot plays out against the burning of Rome and the persecution of Christians. There is a central love story, between the Roman commander Vinitius and the Christian girl Lygia. Because of its incredibly vivid action sequences the novel had been filmed several times. There exist Italian, Hollywood (1950) and Polish (2001) versions.

Shortly after its initial publication in 1896 the book became an international runaway best-seller with translations appearing in many languages.

Among the English translations are those done by:

  • Jeremiah Curtin
  • Wieslaw Kuniczak
  • S. A. Binion and S. Malevsky - Grosset and Dunlap; New York; 1897
  • C. J. Hogarth - Everyman's Library; Dutton, New York; 1941

Sienkiewicz received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1905 mainly because his work was recognized internationaly through the popularity of this book.

From: various sources

Bonus: Read/Download H. Sienkiewicz's short story "The Third One"

You can read this book on two levels -- as a magnificent piece of historical reconstruction, with its wealth of color and description everywhere in evidence, or for its spirit of compassion for oppressed humanity and the innocent idealistic victims of persecution. At once the novel is alight with parallels to our own time.

A parallel can also be drawn between Sienkiewicz and Pasternak. Sienkiewicz's power as a novelist rose in an era of national change and unrest, and like Pasternak, he was both an ardent patriot and a great writer. He put both qualities to the service of his works and, in recounting the great events of Poland's past, sought to preserve her identity against powerful Russian and Prussian oppressors. Quo Vadis, dealing with Rome under Nero, is the author's only book that stands outside Polish history. It was a parable for his time, depicting a "handful of Christians pitted against the weight of imperial Rome, and destined to be victorious over it by the weight of their spiritual force."

From: C. J. Hogarth - Everyman's Library; Dutton, New York; 1941 (back cover)