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Wladyslaw Reymont's The Promised Land
Three comments

The strange feeling of airlessness that Reymont's novel [Ziemia obiecana (The Promised Land)] so masterfully creates is increased by the total absence of any element of nature. This is something absolutely unbearable. The Polish plains are bare and empty. £ód¼ is shown in all its terrifying ugliness, with its crowded, dirty streets and smoking factories, with its stigma of chaos and misery, all this in the midst of a nature that has no inspiring or encouraging features. There is nothing more joyless than this gray-black chaos without any greenery or flowers, without any hills or water, without any history or character. Clouds of smoke billow day and night; weaving looms are in motion every Sunday as well as on every Jewish Sabbath; poor-quality, loudly colored fabrics pour in an endless stream all over Russia. This is a city without a holiday, in which Jews and Christians bring their offerings to the Golden Calf; this is the city of Mammon. This is £ód¼, the promised land of modern industry. Such is the impression of Reymont's novel. It is not so much a depiction of individual characters as of a segment of society; the main character is the city itself. It is quite obvious that Reymont was strongly influenced in his technique by the naturalistic novels of Zola, in which social phenomena are centers of attention.. . whether they be warehouses or pilgrim ages to Lourdes. To be sure, Ziemia obiecana is full of individual characters, lively portraits, elegant caricatures, intimate situations, and caustic anecdotes. But they are all subordinated to the main idea. ., . the structure and life of the city of £ód¼

Frederick Book, Essayer Och Krifiker (Stockholm, 1934)

The Promised Land deals on a large scale with the complex activities of a large industrial center. Reymont's descriptions of £ód¼, the Polish Manchester, and its motley business world are well documented and thoroughly vivid. As frequently in Slavonic fiction, social injustice is rather heavily underlined, but, in spite of its length, The Promised Land is free from the faults of construction which mar the work of many Slavonic novelist.

In the same way the characters, numerous as they are, are not mere allegorical abstractions serving to illustrate some specific strength or weakness, but are all endowed with the attributes which make them credible human beings. Yet if there is a leading figure in the book, it is not so much any of these millionaires, financiers, agents, hangers-on, society women and numerous others who are delineated with such fidelity, as the town of £ód¼ itself which, by encroaching on the forests and villages around it, changes the aspect of the world and the destinies of men. Some of the impressive passages in this novel are those in which Reymont reproduces the somber, feverish life of the factories and streets of The Promised Land.

Times Literary Supplement, March 1928)

It was paradoxical that Reymont won the Nobel Prize. . . despite his naturalism. Yet the entire thrust of his naturalism is devoid of pessimism and the reduction of mankind to biological drives. It is also free from the allegiance (displayed by the neoromantics) to the elemental and the natural in the individual.

In capitalist, industrial, urban civilization, the accumulation of manufactured goods seemed to Reymont to be threatening to expropriate man. Yet he did not look at nature either as the downfall to which man is doomed or as a breeding ground for liberated instincts. . . From first to last, Reymont searched for different solutions, wrestling with widely acknowledged contradictions trying to resolve personally the dichotomy of nature-civilization.

Zdzis³aw Skwarczynski, Prace Polonistyczne, no. 24, 1968

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