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The Heathen

Narcya Zmichowska, Ursula Phillips

Publication Year: 2012

Narcyza Zmichowska (1819–76) was the most accomplished female writer to come out of Poland in the mid-nineteenth century. In terms of influence and popularity, she was the George Eliot of East European letters, but her fiction was written less in the realist style than in the romantic one. Her novel The Heathen, rendered here in a crystalline English translation by Ursula Phillips, is the tale of a doomed love affair between Benjamin, a young man from a poor but patriotic rural family, and Aspasia, a femme fatale who is older, beautiful, worldlier, and more sexually liberated.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-4


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pp. v-6

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pp. vii-8

I am pleased that Narcyza Żmichowska’s The Heathen, a remarkable text of Polish Romanticism by a woman, is now available to the English-speaking and wider international audience. I am indebted to Alex Schwartz and Mark Heineke of the Northern...

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pp. ix-xlviii

Narcyza Żmichowska (1819–1876) was born in Warsaw in the Congress Kingdom of Poland on 4 March 1819. The Congress Kingdom was a political entity created within the Russian partition following the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and based on the territory of...

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By the Fireside

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pp. 3-31

How beautiful that fireside in Emilka’s house where we, our company of good friends, used to gather years ago almost every day, throughout the long autumn and winter evenings. Low-set, inlaid with black marble, it had a small bronze fender to prevent the burning wood from slipping out, and two...

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pp. 32-52

Imagine a green oasis in the Sahara Desert. Imagine in today’s world—a world of gold, silver, copper, rags converted into banknotes—a large family, poor yet happy. Into this family twenty-six years ago, at one o’clock in the morning, in the middle of the most beautiful August night lit up by the most beautiful...

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pp. 53-65

Christmas Eve was being celebrated at my parents’ house. We children had travelled to be with them since not all of us were still living under the family roof. My two married brothers, Adam and Józef, lived in faraway parts. Three sisters had also got married: Julcia, Bronisia and Terenia. Karol...

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pp. 66-76

And that whole gruesome incident: have you been wondering what reason lay behind it? What goal inspired such an outburst?... Cyprian required my features to complete one of his paintings and had been studying and arranging them to reflect his artistic aims. My brother Cyprian was an artist, a great artist...

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pp. 77-107

One day in July, a day rapidly sinking towards evening, it grew very sultry, without sun or storm, and so heavy—as when the sky cannot shed its tears of rain and must bear down ever lower upon the earth, with ever darker and more swollen clouds. If on such a day I had tried to sit quietly with my arms...

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pp. 108-129

A hundred suppositions flashed through my mind in the space of a minute. I ran indoors as fast as I could. At first glance I was struck only by what seemed like a vast slab, its varnished surface glinting in the light. But when I stepped forward and stood in a better place— oh, then it seemed for a moment that some spell was at work and...

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pp. 130-148

It was not until Christmas Eve that I saw the black outline of the tiny hamlet emerging ahead against the white canvas of snow. A wayside cross loomed before me at the parting of the roads. Behind the farm buildings four poplar trees pointed upwards into the sky like the fingers of some gigantic...

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pp. 149-136

“I’m sorry, two weeks ago a letter which had been lying neglected on my desk for nearly two years fell into my hand,” replied Benjamin. “Satan alias Cain informed me that on 23rd March, in the company of her serving women who had been dressing her for a ball, Aspasia was struck by the most terrible convulsions and in the...


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pp. 137-164

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090692
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875806846

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2012