The Nobel Prize in Literature 1905
Born: 5 May 1846, Wola Okrzejska, Poland
Died: 15 November 1916, Vevey, Switzerland
Residence at the time of the award: Poland
Prize motivation: “because of his outstanding merits as an epic writer”
Prize share: 1/1
Henryk Sienkiewicz was born in Wola Okrzejska, Poland, into an impoverished Polish noble family. He studied literature, history and philology at the University of Warsaw, but did not earn a degree. Instead he began working as a journalist and writer. His early short stories and travelogues became the basis for his renown, which continued to grow. Around the turn of the century, he was Poland’s most popular writer. In 1900 a national subscription raised enough funds to buy him the castle in which his ancestors had lived.
Henryk Sienkiewicz is best known for his epic historical novels. He began writing them during the 1880s and published them as serial installments in Polish newspapers. Comprehensive historical studies formed the basis for his great trilogy of Polish life during the mid-17th century: Ogniem i mieczem (With Fire and Sword), Potop (The Deluge) and Pan Wolodyjowski (Fire in the Steppe). The trilogy intertwines facts, fiction and a strong patriotic undertone. His best-known novel is Quo Vadis (1895), which takes place in Emperor Nero’s Rome.