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Bolesław Prus


Bolesław Prus is the pen name of Aleksander Głowacki (1847-1912), an influential Polish writer of several major novels amongst which The Doll.

Prus was born in the provincial town of Hrubieszów, south-east Poland. He became an orphan early on and was raised by relatives in Puławy and Lublin. In the early 1860s he moved to Kielce in the custody of his older brother Leon. Prus was raised during the aftermath of the unsuccessful November Uprising against the Russian Empire of 1830-1831 and his brother Leon was deeply involved in patriotic conspiracy. So when in 1863 the January Uprising broke out, Prus took up arms and fought alongside the patriots. He was wounded and spend some time in hospital and prison. He was but fifteen years old.

Prus finished his high school after his release and started to study physics and mathematics at Main School, the former University of Warsaw that was heavily controlled by the Russian authorities. He never finished his education, but his interest in science remained. After dropping out of school he tried to support himself with a number of jobs until he made his debut in 1866 with humorous prose in the Warsaw Daily. It was however not until 1872 that he began writing and publishing more systematically and only from 1874 on his writing shifted to the more serious genre: the feuilleton. In these half-journalistic, half-essayistic comments on the events of the day, Prus would soon be an absolute master. His columns were published regularly between 1875-1887 and brought him wide recognition.

In the mean time, Prus was able to earn enough with his writing to live on and to get married. He briefly switched writing for editing when the opportunity was offered to him in 1872, but when this backfired he went back to writing again. Up until that time, Prus had only written a couple of novels and mostly short stories next to his columns, but from the mid 1880s he published his four most well-known novels, including Lalka (The Doll, 1890). Placówka (The Outpost, 1885), Emancypantki (Emancipated Women, 1894) and Faraon (The Pharaoh, 1897) were his other novels. Just as many novels at that time, The Doll was first serialised in a newspaper, starting in 1887, before it was published three years later.

Prus’s last years were mostly filled with philanthropic and other social work. He completed one last novel, Dzieci (The Children) and left another one Przemiany (Change) unfinished when he died in 1912 in Warsaw.

Bolesław Prus