Henryk Adam Aleksander Pius Sienkiewicz Oszyk was born on May 5, 1846 in Wola Okrzejska. He is the greatest Polish novelist of his time: he enjoyed international fame during his lifetime thanks to the immense success of his novel Quo Vadis? (1896), which earned him a universal reputation and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1905. He died on November 15, 1916, at the age of 70, at the Grand Hôtel du Lac in Vevey, Switzerland, before he was able to see Poland attain its independence, for which he worked so hard.
Petronius is an esthete, brilliant and skeptical, cynical and refined. He is so much so that he has become “the arbiter of elegance” at the court of Nero, where he is one of the favorites. His ironic flattery, masked behind an unparalleled intelligence, delight the tyrant.
He is very close to his nephew, Vinicius, a handsome and rich Roman officer. The latter is distraught over a young girl met at the house of a family friend. He was able to talk to her and even tried to court her. In reply, Lygia traced a fish in the sand and ran away.
To help his nephew, Petronius had the young girl brough to Nero’s court. Vinicius will thus be able to approach her more easily so as to make her his mistress. But as that hardly corresponds to her intentions, Lygia then disappears.
The huge success of Quo Vadis? never stopped and it became a classic that has thrilled generations of teenagers. While Vinicius and Lygia’s love story sometimes seems a little too romantic, the book does have some great moments.
The burning of Rome and the subsequent persecutions against Christians are magnificently depicted. Several characters also shine by their intensity. Petronius in particular, Ursus, Lygia’s gigantic bodyguard, and especially St. Peter. Each of his appearances exudes a particular power; no other novel has been able to portray the first pope in this way.
Quo Vadis? is one of the jewels of Christian literature.