Finally I'm reading The Doll, by Bolesław Prus. It stands as the Great Polish Novel (according to people who know better about these things than I do), but it wasn't until I actually cracked it open that it intimidated me.
It's 1878, and it's all Napoleon III, Bismarck, Gambetta, on top of which, it's set during the Partitions, and while I understand the fact of the partitions, it's hard to appreciate the logistical reality of them—how it affected people's heads, their language, culture, politics, their day to day. And when we're dealing with a main character who participated in the 1863 Uprising and was sent to Irkutsk as a result, and then went off to make his fortune in the Russo-Turkish war, I get the feeling the political background might be a little bit important.
[My grandparents were born some years after the events of this novel take place, but still in unPoland. Their day to day, their schooling, was German, yet they remained Polish, if nationless. I cannot fathom what that childhood might've been like.]
So even more so than with War and Peace, or The Red and the Black, I feel I am out of my depth.
But! I've looked a few things up, reread a few passages, passed the 50-page mark (of 683), and wishing I could stop the world so I could sink into it for a few uninterrupted days.
Izabela, our allegedly cold-hearted bitch of a heroine, is reading Zola's latest novel, A Page of Love.
Jacek Kaczmarski's song of the novel in the above clip is illustrated by scenes from Wojciech Has's 1968 film adapatation.