cover image Charcoal Sketches and Other Tales

Charcoal Sketches and Other Tales

Henryk K. Sienkiewicz. Angel Books, $23.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-946162-32-1

Zamoyski's sprightly new translation demonstrates that even the passage of a century cannot disguise the wit or lessen the bite of these three novellas by Sienkiewicz, the Polish writer best known for his historical novel Quo Vadis? ``Charcoal Sketches'' uses broad humor to depict the plight of the common folk in the village of Woollyhead who are subject to the rule of the Russian Tsar and, more directly, to the whims of his appointed representative, Mr. Skrofulowski. Meanwhile, they are abandoned by the traditional sources of authority--the local gentry and the Church. ``Bartek the Conqueror'' is a darker tale of a peasant from a Prussian-occupied area of Poland who is sent off to war only to discover that it's easier to fight against the French than to live with the Germans. In ``On the Bright Shore'' Sienkiewicz ridicules Polish expatriates living the high life in Monte Carlo, where, as one prince explains, he could serve his country by exploiting social connections, ``writing out, on a visiting-card, a summary of the economic and political situation,'' certain it would reach the British prime minister. (Apr.)