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{Review} The Teutonic Knights/ Knights of the Cross – Henryk Sienkiewicz

Notes

As read for Rose City Reader’s 2012 European Reading Challenge and The Black Sheep Dances Eastern European Challenge

Coming from England and having a mother who specialised in the Third Reich (and London’s Soho in the 1890s) [I hasten to add that she studied these areas to increase the strength of her anti-racism and pro-racial tolerance/ multiculturalism arguments] I’ve grown up with a lot of anti-Eastern European propaganda floating around.

What I wanted was a different perspective of Poland and its history and I’d say that The Teutonic Knights sheds the different light I’ve been looking for.

Blurb (full version can be found on goodreads)
The Teutonic Knights is an epic of medieval times and national destiny, ranking as one of the highest achievements from the pen of Henryk Sienkiewicz, the Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1905.

The novel follows the adventures of Macko, a resourceful and wise veteran of war, and his young nephew, Zbyszko, the symbol of a maturing nation, as they struggle, along with the unified peoples of Poland and Lithuania, against the oppressive religious military order, the Teutonic Knights.

A host of other memorable characters fills the canvas set against lush, almost magical forests, dangerous marshes replete with tales of human heads walking on spider legs, winter blizzards that blanket the world in a white wonderland – all at once beautiful and foreboding. Splendid castles are described here, court hunts, single combats that test valour and strength. The customs of knights with their code of honour and feelings of love are adroitly explored. The entirety culminates in one of the most important battles in medieval history, the Battle of Grunwald.


Review
Having watched the first two parts of Sienkiewicz’s Trilogy, which portrays the Germans positively, I was surprised by the two-dimensional way that he wrote about them in The Teutonic Knights. They are portrayed as savage brutes who will do anything to harm others. [Spoiler alert] The torture and eventual death of one of the main characters is tragic, even though it makes way for the love story that was always going to happen.. [/end spoiler alert]

On the other hand, I did enjoy reading a book that showed the Knights of the Cross to be not as holy as the order’s name would suggest. I also enjoyed Sienkiewicz’s way of writing about Courtly Love (I’m a real sucker for that) and about the role of religion in the Medieval period in Central/ Eastern Europe.

I love the idea of Sienkiewicz re-creating the concept of the Polish nation through this book at a time when his ‘country’ did not exist. I also really enjoyed reading a book that was pro-Poland.


Overall
Whilst it’s not my favourite of Sienkiewicz’s novels, it is definitely one that I’ll re-read at a later date (hopefully in the original language) as it had lots of elements that I really enjoy in fiction. There was romance, there was war and it was set in the Medieval period.

Wild Night In’s Verdict? Wavering towards.. win!

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WWW Wednesday Reads – 28th March 2012

WWW Wednesday, as hosted by shouldbereading

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Plus tard, tu comprendras, [you’ll understand later] by Jérome Clément as my bed-time book. It is all about a man who’s going through his recently-deceased mother’s belongings and finds lots of papers detailing what happened to her parents during WWII. It sounds dry maybe, but I find it fascinating and movingly written.

My second book is Chanter la langue d’oc en Provence à la fin du XXe siècle, [singing in Occitan in Provence at the end of the 20th century] by Elisabeth Cestor. I’m really cheesed off with myself for not finding this book sooner as it supports some parts of my dissertation that I’d been unable to support before. I now have to re-write the bones of my literature review.

I’m also reading Lost Tales of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky as slowly as I can because I don’t want to finish the series.

What did you recently finish reading?
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: I finished the 1st book yesterday but can’t quite face reading the sequels yet because the content is quite challenging and keeps making me weep.

I finally finished reading Sienkiewicz’s Les Chevaliers Teutoniques after over two weeks!

 

What do you think you’ll read next?
As soon as I’ve finished the books I’m on (and have read L’Amant for class), I’m going to start to focus on reading articles from back copies of the Languages magazines that I have subscriptions for. I need to get this Literature Review re-written DX

 

 

What are you reading? Or hoping to read? Any reading woes or wins recently?
Feel free to comment and say! 🙂

 
9 Comments

Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Books

 

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WWW Wednesday reads

WWW Wednesday, as hosted by shouldbereading

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?
I started The Coming of Hoole by Kathryn Lasky this morning. I adore the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series and find this book a brilliant addition to it. It tells the story of Hoole, the founder of the Great Tree of Ga’Hoole (which plays an important role in all the other books).

I’ve also begun The Knights of the Cross by Henryk Sienkiewicz as part of the Eastern European Books challenge. This book is particularly significant in Poland as parallels have been drawn between beating back the Teutonic Knights for the last time and the defeat of the Nazis, indeed it was the first book republished in Poland after the end of WW2.

 
What did you recently finish reading?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The less said about this reading experience, the better…

 
What do you think you’ll read next?
I’m waiting for my copies of Murder at Manfield Park by Lynn Sheperd and Peter the Great by J. Massie and should be trying to fill the time by reading The Arabian Nights and Cahier d’un retour au pays natal by Aimé Césaire.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Books

 

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