The Doll

( 4 )

Overview

Bołeslaw Prus is often compared to Chekhov, and Prus’s masterpiece might be described as an intimate epic, a beautifully detailed, utterly absorbing exploration of life in late-nineteenth-century Warsaw, which is also a prophetic reckoning with some of the social forces—imperialism, nationalism, anti-Semitism among them—that would soon convulse Europe as never before. But The Doll is above all a brilliant novel of character, dramatizing conflicting ideas through the various convictions, ambitions, confusions, and...

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The Doll

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Overview

Bołeslaw Prus is often compared to Chekhov, and Prus’s masterpiece might be described as an intimate epic, a beautifully detailed, utterly absorbing exploration of life in late-nineteenth-century Warsaw, which is also a prophetic reckoning with some of the social forces—imperialism, nationalism, anti-Semitism among them—that would soon convulse Europe as never before. But The Doll is above all a brilliant novel of character, dramatizing conflicting ideas through the various convictions, ambitions, confusions, and frustrations of an extensive and varied cast. At the center of the book are three men from three different generations. Prus’s fatally flawed hero is Wokulski, a successful businessman who yearns for recognition from Poland’s decadent aristocracy and falls desperately in love with the highborn, glacially beautiful Izabela. Wokulski’s story is intertwined with those of the incorrigibly romantic old clerk Rzecki, nostalgic for the revolutions of 1848, and of the bright young scientist Ochocki, who dreams of a future full of flying machines and other marvels, making for a book of great scope and richness that is, as Stanisław Barańczak writes in his introduction, at once “an old-fashioned yet still fascinating love story . . . , a still topical diagnosis of society’s ills, and a forceful yet subtle portrayal of a tragically doomed man."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This utterly oddball, fiercely enjoyable novel dissects the self-destructive romanticism of a brilliant, self-made tycoon who falls in love with a glamorous airhead. The book, with Proustian patience and subtlety, analyzes the delusions of infatuation seen through the lens of class.”
—Phillip Lopate, Salon

The Doll demonstrates 19th-century realism at its best.” 
—Czesław Miłosz 

“. . . a great panoramic novel of 19th-century Poland.”
—Timothy Garton Ash, The Independent

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590173831
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 2/8/2011
  • Series: New York Review Books Classics Series
  • Pages: 704
  • Sales rank: 798,086
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

BOLESŁAW PRUS (1847–1912) was born Aleksander Głowacki in the provincial town of Hrubieszów, Poland. His mother died in 1850; his father, an estate steward of noble birth (the author’s pen name is a reference to the family’s origin near the Prussian border), died six years later, leaving him in the care of relatives in Puławy and Lublin. In 1862, he moved to Kielce with his older brother Leon, a Polish patriot. The next year, the teenaged Aleksander joined in the January 1863 uprising against Russian rule. Wounded in battle, he was imprisoned in Lublin Castle, but released when he was discovered to be underage. He then finished high school and enrolled in university, but lacked the funds to graduate. Instead, he worked several odd jobs, including a stint in a metallurgical factory, before taking up journalism. Prus eventually made a name for himself as a writer of feuilletons, publishing his much-admired Kroniki in the Kurier Warszawski between 1875 and 1887 and also achieving some success with his short stories. The Outpost, published in 1885, was the first of four novels that secured his literary reputation. It was followed by The Doll (1890), Emancipated Women (1894), and The Pharaoh (1897). A respected but no longer fashionable writer, Prus dedicated his last years to social reform and philanthropic work.

STANISŁAW BARAŃCZAK is a poet, translator, and literary critic. He won the 2007 Nike Award for the best work of Polish literature published in the previous year and the 2009 Silesius Poetry Award for lifetime achievement. He is a professor of Polish language and literature at Harvard University.

DAVID WELSH'S translations include A Dreambook for Our Time by Tadeusz Konwicki, Cloak of Illusion by Stanislaw Dygat, and Black Torrent by Leopold Buczkowski.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Stanislaw Bara'nczak

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2001

    You must read!!!

    The books shows Poland as a country of change. The old Poland is represented by the doll and people who surround her, her envirnoment. The upper class, which doesn't tolerate anyone how hasn't been born in it. The new Poland is represented in person of Mr. Wokulski a man from the middle class who through his hard work had more influence in the country than the upper class. This book is one of the best I have ever read. I highly recommend this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2015

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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