The Best Polish Authors Of All Time: 24 Writers To Read

If you want to discover the passion and beauty of the Polish people, take the time to read these 24 of the best Polish authors.

With multiple Nobel Prize winners, the country of Poland is full of exceptional authors and poets. This rich literary history is largely unknown to English-speaking readers, yet many excellent works came from what is today Poland. 

This part of the world has a fascinating history that includes invasions, wars for independence, dictatorships, and censorship of many literary works. The result is a literary history with a significant depth and is well worth studying.

Reading these works will help you understand more about the Slavic people, their history and culture, and appreciate the results that the culture inspired.

Best Polish Authors

1. Stanislaw Lem

Stanislaw Lem was a science-fiction writer from Poland who wrote Solaris, one of the best-known books from the Polish literary world. This book shows what happens when humans hover over a mysterious planet to study it, only to learn that they, themselves, are the subjects of study. This book is one of the best examples of sci-fi literature that shows extra-terrestrial life and the limits of human reasoning.

Lem was born in 1921 in what is today Ukraine. When the Soviets took over Eastern Poland, he was pulled out of college, and when Nazi occupation occurred, his family used false papers to stay out of the Jewish Ghetto. After World War II, he attempted to study medicine but dropped out to focus on writing.

His first science fiction book, The Astronauts, successfully passed the communist censors in 1951, starting his fame as an author.

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Solaris
  • Stanislaw Lem (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 12/09/2022 (Publication Date) - Mariner (Publisher)

2. Tadeusz Różewicz

Tadeusz Różewicz wrote poetry, short stories, and plays. His poetry was minimalist in style and content, and he published 15 volumes of poetry. One of these, New Poems, received a nomination for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2008.

Sobbing Superpower: Selected Poems of Tadeusz Różewicz, is perhaps his most famous collection

Tadeusz Różewicz was born in Radomsko and died in Wroclaw at 92. His works have translations in most major languages, and he received many nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature, though he never won. In 2000, he won the Nike Award, the top literary award in Poland.

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Sobbing Superpower: Selected Poems of Tadeusz Róźewicz
  • Hardcover Book
  • Tadeusz Rozewicz (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages - 01/31/2011 (Publication Date) - W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)

3. Adam Mickiewicz

Considered one of the top 10 most famous Polish writers by Pantheon, Adam Mickiewicz has works translated into nearly 90 languages. Forefather’s Eve is one of his most famous works. This four-part play, published after Mickiewicz’s death, showcased his abilities as a playwright, but his poetry made him stand out in Polish literature.

He also wrote Pan Tadeusz.

Mickiewicz was born in 1798 in what is now Belarus, and he died in 1955 in what is now Turkey. He pushed for Polish national freedom throughout his life and was arrested and deported to Russia for his patriotic activities.

You might also be interested in our round-up of the best Turkish authors.

Forefathers' Eve
  • Hardcover Book
  • Mickiewicz, Adam (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 418 Pages - 11/09/2016 (Publication Date) - Glagoslav Publications B.V. (Publisher)

4. Czeslaw Milosz

Czeslaw Milosz was a poet and prose writer from Poland. His works tackled the politics and history of his country, and he also worked as a translator to bring Polish works to the American audience. The Captive Mind is his work of prose that showed his abilities as an intellectual as he wrote an appraisal of Stalinism.

After surviving the German occupation of Warsaw during World War II, Milosz defected to France when the Communist party threatened Poland. He eventually moved to the United States and became a University of California, Berkeley professor. In 1980 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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The Captive Mind
  • Czeslaw Milosz (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 08/11/1990 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

5. Henryk Sienkiewicz

When the 1900s rolled around, Henryk Sienkiewicz was the most famous writer in Poland, and he also had popularity in Germany, Russia, and France. This Nobel Prize laureate wrote the international bestseller Quo Vadis. His trilogy of historical novels, including With Fire and Sword, The Deluge, and Sir Michael, set him apart.

Sienkiewicz was from a displaced Polish noble family, and he began writing in the 1860s. He traveled to the United States and gained popularity in Poland for his travel essays from those excursions. Several of his books have become movies.

Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero
  • Sienkiewicz, Henryk (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 428 Pages - 09/04/2019 (Publication Date) - Digireads.com Publishing (Publisher)

6. Marek Krajewski

Best Polish Authors: Marek Krajewski
Rafał Komorowski, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Marek Krajewski is a modern Polish crime writer famous for his novels set in pre-war Wroclaw, including Death in Breslau. They have translations in 18 languages, and he won the Georg Dehio Book Prize and the Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Arts awards for his work.

Krajewski was born in Wroclaw in 1966, and he still lives in Poland today. In addition to his work as an author, he is a linguist and translator. He studied classics at the University of Wroclaw and earned a master’s and doctoral degree in the arts.

You might also enjoy our round-up of the best crime thriller writers

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Death in Breslau: An Inspector Mock Investigation
  • Hardcover Book
  • Krajewski, Marek (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 09/04/2012 (Publication Date) - Melville International Crime (Publisher)

7. Olga Tokarczuk

Olga Tokarczuk is a Polish activist and writer who is one of the most critically acclaimed modern Polish writers. She earned the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature and was one of the first female Polish writers. Her novel Flights earned the 2018 Man Booker International Prize as well.

You might also be interested in our list of the best feminist authors

Takarczuk has works translated into almost 40 languages, and The Books of Jacob is considered one of her most important. She got her love of reading from her parents, who were teachers from Eastern Poland. She studied clinical psychology at the University of Warsaw before starting her writing career.

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Flights
  • Tokarczuk, Olga (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 416 Pages - 08/13/2019 (Publication Date) - Riverhead Books (Publisher)

8. Wislawa Szymborska

Wislawa Szymborska won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his poetry, and her biography currently has 93 language translations. She lived in Krakow for most of her life, and in her poetry, she used irony to bring historical and biological ideas to light. People on a Bridge and Monologue of a Dog are two collections with English language translations.

When she was a young woman, Szymborska studied Polish literature at Jagiellonian University. She worked as an editor and columnist, and her reviews were often considered required reading in academic classrooms.

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Monologue of a Dog
  • Hardcover Book
  • Wislawa Szymborska (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 112 Pages - 11/07/2005 (Publication Date) - Harcourt (Publisher)

9. Witold Gombrowicz

Writer and playwright Witold Gombrowicz received a Nobel Prize nomination in 1966. His first novel, Ferdydurke, was a critical look at Polish society and culture. Many of his works were banned in Poland because of their content.

Interestingly, Gombrowicz refused to publish his works in Poland while the ban was in place on some of his books. It wasn’t until the 1970s that his work became well known. He was born in 1904 in the Russian Empire and died at the age of 64 in France, gaining more fame for his work after his death.

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Ferdydurke (Margellos World Republic of Letters)
  • Gombrowicz, Witold (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 04/24/2012 (Publication Date) - Yale University Press (Publisher)

10. Bruno Schulz

Bruno Schulz was a Polish Jewish author who is considered one of the top Polish language prose writers of the 20th century. He wrote Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass and The Street of Crocodiles, among other works. Many of his works were lost under Nazi rule, yet he still won the Polish Academy of Literature’s Golden Laurel award.

Schulz was born in 1892 and lived in what is now Ukraine. After World War I, he worked as an artist and teacher, which helped develop his imagination. Schulz was forced into a Nazi ghetto during World War II, and a Nazi officer murdered him for walking through the German part of town.

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The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories (Penguin Classics)
  • Schulz, Bruno (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages - 03/25/2008 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

11. Gerhart Hauptmann

Gerhart Hauptmann was a promoter of literary naturalism, and he earned the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1912. He wrote both plays and books, and his 1889 play Before Sunrise caused a scandal in the theater scene because he depicted some less moral topics. The Weavers is his most influential play, and The Fool in Christ, Emanuel Quint, was his first full-length novel.

Hauptmann’s life was a series of scandals, but around the turn of the 20th century, he began to receive accolades for his writing. He earned honorary doctorates from several colleges and the Nobel Prize. Even though he was a Polish writer, Hauptmann earned a spot as a representative poet of Germany along with honorary citizenship.

Three Plays : The Weavers, Hannele, the Beaver Coat
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Gerhart Hauptmann (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 218 Pages - 11/01/1990 (Publication Date) - Waveland Pr Inc (Publisher)

12. Janusz Korczak

Janusz Korczak is the pen name of Henryk Goldszmit. This Polish Jewish author was known as “Mr. Doctor” due to his work with children and orphans as a pediatrician. He is best known for his pedagogy and fiction writing, and two of his novels, Kaytek the Wizard and King Matt the First, have English language translations.

Korczak was born in Warsaw in 1878. He picked up his pen name to enter the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Literary Contest, and the name stuck.

He ended up in the Warsaw Ghetto in World War II, where he cared for orphans. When the orphans were sent to the concentration camps, he refused special treatment and accompanied them. He likely died in the camps as he was never heard from again.

Kaytek the Wizard
  • Hardcover Book
  • Korczak, Janusz (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 08/01/2012 (Publication Date) - Penlight Publications (Publisher)

13. Maciej Slomczynski

Maciej Slomczynski was a Polish writer who often wrote under the pen name Joe Alex. In addition to his crime fiction novels, he translated many classics into Polish, including Ulysses and Gulliver’s Travels.

Slomczynski was born in Warsaw in 1922 and died in 1998. He wrote detective stories primarily. He was a member of the Stowarzyszenie Pisarzy Polskich and Rotary Club. Many of his works were published in Russia without his permission or the permission of his descendants.

Zmacony spokoj Pani Labiryntu
  • Joe Alex (Maciej Slomczynski (Author)
  • Polish (Publication Language)
  • 12/09/1965 (Publication Date) - Iskry (Publisher)

14. Jan Kochanowski

Best Polish Authors: Jan Kochanowski
Józef Buchbinder, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Polish Renaissance poet Jan Kochanowski deserves a spot on this list due to the poetic patterns of the Polish literary world. These quickly became an integral part of language development, and he is considered the most important poet to write before Adam Mickiewicz. His masterpiece, The Dismissal of the Greek Envoys, talks about an incident that created the Trojan War, and it was the first Polish tragedy ever written.

Because he was born in 1530, little is known about Kochanowski’s childhood. He was well-educated and studied under French poet Pierre Ronsard. In addition to his poetry, he worked as a humanist.

Poems by Jan Kochanowski
  • Hardcover Book
  • Jan Kochanowski (Author)
  • 12/09/2022 (Publication Date) - University of California Press (Publisher)

15. Andrzej Sapkowski

Andrzej Sapkowski is a modern Polish author who writes fantasy books. The most famous books are The Witcher book series, which has 37 language translations. This makes him the second-most translated Polish science fiction writer, and he has over 15 million copies of his books in print.

Born in 1948 in Lodz, Sapkowski has been writing since he was young. He also translates works into Polish, and he started writing fiction to enter a science fiction magazine writing contest. He still lives in Lodz and is a Polish Writers’ Association member.

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The Witcher Stories Boxed Set: The Last Wish, Sword of Destiny: Introducing the Witcher
  • Sapkowski, Andrzej (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 752 Pages - 06/16/2020 (Publication Date) - Orbit (Publisher)

16. Boleslaw Prus

Boleslaw Prus is the pen name of Aleksander Glowacki, a political figure and novelist from Poland who has a distinctive voice in his works. His four novels, The Outpost, The Doll, The New Woman, and Pharaoh, are considered his most influential works.

As a teenager, Prus took part in the Polish uprising against Imperial Russia, and these experiences led to a series of mental health conditions he battled as an adult. He started his writing career at the age of 25, and many of his works used humor to poke fun at the politics of the day. He died in his home at the age of 65.

The Doll (New York Review Books Classics)
  • Prus, Boleslaw (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 704 Pages - 02/08/2011 (Publication Date) - NYRB Classics (Publisher)

17. Isaac Bashevis Singer

One of the most famous Polish authors, Isaac Bashevis Singer, was a Jewish-American writer who published his works in Yiddish and then translated them into English. In 1978, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and he also has two U.S. National Book Awards for his work. A Day of Pleasure: Stories of a Boy Growing up in Warsaw and A Crown of Feathers and Other Stories are two of his most famous works.

Singer was born to Jewish parents near Warsaw in 1903. His father was a Rabbi, making them religious leaders in their community. World War I caused the family to split up to stay safe, and in 1935 Singer emigrated to the United States to avoid the conflicts coming from Germany. He died in Florida at the age of 87.

18. Józef Wittlin

Józef Wittlin was a novelist from Poland who also worked as a translator. He wrote From the Memoirs of a Former Pacifist and Salt of the Earth, his first book in an unfinished trilogy he had planned. He also had a book of his poetry published posthumously.

Wittlin was born in 1896 and joined a volunteer army after his schooling. When the Poles refused to take the Austrian government’s oath and his unit disbanded, Wittlin moved to Vienna and began to study philosophy. That study wove its way into his writing. 

He spent much of his adult years traveling through Europe until World War II forced him to evacuate to America. He died in New York City at the age of 79.

Salt of the Earth
  • Hardcover Book
  • Wittlin, Jozef (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 02/05/2019 (Publication Date) - Pushkin Press (Publisher)

19. Zofia Nalkowska

Zofia Nalkowska was a Polish essayist and writer who authored several novels in the early 1900s. These included Women, The Prince, and The Romance of Teresa Hennert. Many of these have English language translations.

Nalkowska was born into an educated family who was passionate about social justice, and she was one of the top feminist writers of her day. Her Polish books had deep psychological depth. She also published several works of poetry and plays before her death in 1954.

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The Romance of Teresa Hennert
  • Nalkowska, Zofia (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 200 Pages - 11/01/2014 (Publication Date) - Northern Illinois University Press (Publisher)

20. Zbigniew Herbert

Zbigniew Herbert was well-known for his poetry. He is one of the most translated post-war Polish writers. His first collection, The Chord of Light, instantly launched him into popularity. He received the Petrarch Prize and the Bruno Schulz Prize for his poetry.

Under German occupation, he studied at the underground King John Casimir University, studying Polish literature. He moved to Krakow in 1944, and after the war, he worked low-paying jobs due to the Communist guidelines that held back his writing.

When the political scene changed, he started publishing his poetry. He published Still Life with a Bridle, a collection of his essays, in 1991 and died in 1998.

The Collected Poems: 1956-1998
  • Herbert, Zbigniew (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 624 Pages - 02/05/2008 (Publication Date) - Ecco (Publisher)

21. Hanna Krall

Hanna Krall is a novelist and journalist from Warsaw who has several famous books under her name. Heading East from Arbat was her first book, and she gained success with Shielding the Flame, a book based on her interview with Marek Edelman, a Polish Jewish cardiologist. Her work earned her the Herder Prize in 2005.

Krall has a Jewish background and was born in Poland around 1935. Most of her family died in the Holocaust, but she survived due to help from the Polish rescuers who hid her from the Germans. She earned a degree from the University of Warsaw.

Shielding the Flame: An Intimate Conversation With Dr. Marek Edelman, the Last Surviving Leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
  • Hardcover Book
  • Hanna Krall (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 124 Pages - 12/09/1986 (Publication Date) - Henry Holt & Company (Publisher)

22. Ryszard Kapuściński

Ryszard Kapuściński was a nominee for the Nobel Prize for Literature for his works. His most famous works are Another Day of Life and The Emperor, and he also published The Soccer War. He called his work “literary reportage,” as he wrote in a journalistic style while still keeping it engaging in a novel form.

Kapuściński was born in Pinsk in 1932 and attended the University of Warsaw. During his childhood, his family did not have much, and they frequently moved to avoid problems from the war. He began publishing poetry in a weekly magazine as a teenager, which earned him notice as a writer. 

After graduation from college, he worked as a reporter and traveled throughout the world to report.

Another Day of Life
  • Ryszard Kapuscinski (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 144 Pages - 04/17/2001 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

23. Władysław Reymont

Władysław Reymontwas was a Polish novelist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1924. His four-volume book, The Peasants, is his most famous. He also wrote The Promised Land and The Revolt, a metaphor for the Bolshevik Revolution that got banned by the Communist leadership until 1945.

Like many Polish poets and writers, Reymont was born to an impoverished noble family. He received no formal education and ran away from home to work in a traveling theater. It was not until his works were published that he discovered writing talent, and his literary career began. He died at the age of 58 in 1925.

The Peasants: Summer (Volume IV) (The Peasants (Chłopi))
  • Reymont, Władysław (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 310 Pages - 08/05/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

24. Gunter Grass

Winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature, Gunter Grass is a poet, playwright, graphic artist, and novelist. He is famous for The Tin Drum, a key text in European realism, and Cat and Mouse. Because he was born in Gdansk, Poland, Grass is considered a Polish writer and a German writer.

Grass served in World War II and was taken as a U.S. prisoner of war. He was released in 1946 and began writing in 1950. He was a political activist and wrote widely on World War II.

The Tin Drum
  • Paperback with front design of the drummer and drum
  • Grass, Günter (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 592 Pages - 04/08/2010 (Publication Date) - HarperVia (Publisher)

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.