cover image Fire in the Steppe

Fire in the Steppe

Henryk K. Sienkiewicz. Hippocrene Books, $24.95 (717pp) ISBN 978-0-7818-0025-9

First published in 1887, this lengthy saga completes Sienkiewicz's populist trilogy (after With Fire and Sword and The Deluge ), which Kuniczak's convincing translation brings to life for the contemporary reader. The Polish people's struggle against Cossacks, Tartars and Turks in the 1670s prefigures modern Poland's quest for nationhood in this installment of the rousing epic of love, war, adventure and madness. Basia, the gutsy, bright, determined heroine, who chases bandits on horseback, riding a man's saddle, almost steals the show from her Hamlet-like husband, Col. Pan Vol od yov ski. A master of robust, old-fashioned realism, Sienkiewicz mixes fictional characters, like his boisterous villain, the shrewd old knight Pan Zagloba, with historical figures like Jan Sobieski, the careworn Grand Hetman of Poland, nemesis of the Turks and savior of Christendom at Vienna. Sienkiewicz's fierce, larger-than-life characters unself-consciously stride across the stage of history. His portrayal of the Polish Commonwealth averting anarchy and pulling together holds a timeless message of hope. (June)