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Sapkowski, Andrzej

Entry updated 6 May 2024. Tagged: Author, Critic.

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(1948-    ) Polish Fantasy author who has published only two sf stories, but whose work has become first nationally then internationally nearly as successful as that of Stanisław Lem and had an unprecedented impact on Polish Fantastika of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.

Sapkowski was born and raised in Łódź, a major industrial centre whose multicultural character and tradition (until World War Two it was populated by Poles, Jews, Germans, Russians and even Czechs) seems to have shaped his artistic sensibility. For over two decades prior to taking up a full-time writing career, he worked in foreign trade and his knowledge of foreign languages (particularly Russian, English and German) allowed him to discover much Anglophone fantasy and sf unavailable in Polish in the 1970s.

His debut novella "Wiedźmin" (December 1986 Fantastyka; trans Danusia Stok as "The Witcher" and Michael Kandel as "Spellmaker" – see Checklist) won third prize in the magazine's second short story competition, inaugurating the highly successful Witcher series of stories, novellas and novels about Geralt of Rivia, a professional exterminator of Monsters and Supernatural Creatures, whose extraordinary abilities and fighting skills are the result of laborious and controversial controlled mutations and ruthless training. Many episodes in Geralt's adventures address such issues as prejudice against otherness and racial and gender inequality; the Witcher himself is frequently looked down upon as a Mutant and referred to with contempt, habitually perceived not as a skilled and righteous swordsman but merely an amoral cutthroat for hire, a stigma he struggles with all of his life [for Low Fantasy see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below].

Sapkowski's only stories of direct sf interest are "W leju po bombie" ["In a Shell Hole"] (April 1993 Fenix), which in 1994 won the Janusz A Zajdel Award, and "Bitewny pył" ["Battle Dust"] (1994 Czerwony Karzeł #7). The former is an eminently satirical Future History set in Suwałki, Northern Poland, part of a balkanized Europe apparently engulfed in political turmoil elicited by the demons of the past, including toxic nationalism, religious fundamentalism and anti-Semitism; Lithuanian, German and American troops are engaged in a daylong skirmish, unsurprisingly not a unique incident in the region, which is narrated by a post-Chernobyl mutant-teenager who on his way to school falls into the eponymous shell hole. The latter is an intensive action-packed Space Opera playing with Military SF tropes; its main characters, a group of mercenaries, die one by one in their heated attempts to break the siege they have found themselves in, and get back to their Spaceship. The story deceitfully concludes at the point where readers expects the real adventures to begin, when the leader of the group – having reached the safety of his vessel – vows to avenge his fallen companions.

Early in the new century, Sapkowski published his most ambitious and artistically accomplished literary project to date, the intense and extensive Hussite Trilogy comprising Narrenturm (2002; trans David French as The Tower of Fools 2020), Boży wojownicy ["Warriors of God"] (2004) and Lux Perpetua ["Light Perpetual"] (2006), a dynamic, erudite and stylistically impressive amalgam of epic adventure, chivalric romance and the picaresque, mixing together ribaldry, comedy and magic in the turbulent times of the Hussite Wars involving the Kingdom of Bohemia, the duchies of Silesia and the Kingdom of Poland between 1425 and 1434, and which can be associated with some works by Umberto Eco, particularly Baudolino (2000) and to a lesser degree Il nome della rosa (1980; trans William Weaver as The Name of the Rose 1983) at the level of its use of historical details and references; while also showing the influence of Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916), whose masterly use of Polish language in historical novels conveying a strong patriotic message made him the most popular Polish author of his time [for Fantasies of History see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. The trilogy was followed by Żmija ["The Viper"] (2009), an historical fantasy, set during the Soviet-Afghan war. Its protagonist's clinically suppressed paranormal abilities (see ESP) are triggered by a golden viper, whose closeness and power let him eventually discover his full potential, which leads to his experiencing past and future attempts at conquering Afghanistan.

Sapkowski is best known worldwide for the Witcher books, beginning properly with Krew elfów (1994; trans Danusia Stok as Blood of Elves 2008), which have been translated into nearly all European languages as well as simplified Chinese, Japanese and Korean; its first English language publication coincided with the launch of the Computer Role Playing Game The Witcher (2007), which promptly gained enormous popularity.

From 1999 until 2008 Sapkowski edited the Andrzej Sapkowski Przedstawia ["Andrzej Sapkowski Presents"] series featuring Anglophone fantasy, including novels by writers then unknown in Poland such as Emma Bull, Neil Gaiman, Robin Hobb, Patricia A McKillip, Martha Wells and others. For many of these Sapkowski wrote in-depth introductions, as he did separately for the Polish translations of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series by Fritz Leiber and John Crowley's The Solitudes (1987 as Ægypt)

His most significant and influential nonfiction work is Rękopis znaleziony w smoczej jaskini ["The Manuscript Found in a Dragon's Den"] (2001; exp rev 2011), a comprehensive systematization of fantasy for Polish readers. It contains an essay on the history of the genre, a glossary of terms, a lexicon of themes, magical objects, mythological characters and a bestiary, as well as a suggested fantasy canon with a list of most prominent sagas and series, all written with his characteristic wit and erudition.

Among his numerous Awards and honours, Sapkowski has received the 2009 David Gemmell Award for the above-cited Blood of Elves, and the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement in 2016. [KW]

Andrzej Sapkowski

born Łódź, Poland: 21 June 1948



The Witcher

Collections and individual novels are not here separated.

  • Ostatnie życzenie (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 1993) [coll: The Witcher: pb/Bogusław Polch]
    • The Last Wish (London: Gollancz, 2007) [coll: trans by Danusia Stok from stories in the above: The Witcher: pb/]
  • Miecz przeznaczenia (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 1993) [coll: The Witcher: pb/Bogusław Polch]
    • Sword of Destiny (London: Gollancz, 2015) [coll: trans by David French from stories in the above: The Witcher: pb/lejandro Colucci]
  • Krew elfów (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 1994) [The Witcher: pb/Bogusław Polch]
    • Blood of Elves (London: Gollancz, 2008) [trans by Danusia Stok of the above: The Witcher: hb/Stewart @ Sonar Graphics]
  • Czas pogardy (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 1995) [The Witcher: pb/Bogusław Polch]
    • Time of Contempt (London: Gollancz, 2013) [trans by David French of the above: The Witcher: hb/Alejandro Colucci]
  • Chrzest ognia (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 1996) [The Witcher: pb/Bogusław Polch]
    • Baptism of Fire (London: Gollancz, 2014) [trans by David French of the above: The Witcher: pb/Alejandro Colucci]
  • Wieża Jaskółki (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 1997) [The Witcher: pb/Bogusław Polch]
    • The Tower of the Swallow (London: Gollancz, 2016) [trans by David French of the above: The Witcher: pb/Alejandro Colucci]
  • Pani Jeziora (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 1999) [The Witcher: pb/Bogusław Polch]
    • The Lady of the Lake (London: Gollancz, 2017) [trans by David French of the above: The Witcher: pb/Alejandro Colucci]
  • Opowieści o Wiedźminie ["The Tales of The Witcher"] (Warsaw, Poland: Świat Książki, 2002) [coll: The Witcher: pb/Jacek Kopalski]
  • Sezon burz (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 2013) [The Witcher: pb/Tomasz Piorunowski]
    • Season of Storms (London: Gollancz, 2018) [trans by David French from the above: the title is standalone: The Witcher: hb/Alejandro Colucci]

The Witcher: comics adaptations

  • Wiedźmin. Droga bez powrotu ["The Witcher Vol. 1: The Road of No Return"] (Warsaw, Poland: Prószyński i Ska, 1993) with Maciej Parowski and Bogusław Polch [graph: The Witcher: pb/Bogusław Polch]
  • Wiedźmin. Geralt ["The Witcher Vol. 2: Geralt"] (Warsaw, Poland: Prószyński i Ska, 1993) with Maciej Parowski and Bogusław Polch [graph: The Witcher: pb/Bogusław Polch]
  • Wiedźmin. Mniejsze złow ["The Witcher Vol 3: Lesser Evil"] (Warsaw, Poland: Prószyński i ska, 1993) with Maciej Parowski and Bogusław Polch [graph: The Witcher: pb/Bogusław Polch]
  • Wiedźmin. Ostatnie życzenie ["The Witcher Vol. 4: The Last Wish"] (Warsaw, Poland: Prószyński i Ska, 1994) with Maciej Parowski and Bogusław Polch [graph: The Witcher: pb/Bogusław Polch]
  • Wiedźmin. Granica możliwości ["The Witcher Vol. 5: The Bounds of Abilities"] (Warsaw, Poland: Prószyński i Ska, 1994) with Maciej Parowski and Bogusław Polch [graph: The Witcher: pb/Bogusław Polch]
  • Wiedźmin. Zdrada ["The Witcher Vol. 6: The Betrayal"] (Warsaw, Poland: Prószyński i Ska, 1995) with Maciej Parowski and Bogusław Polch [graph: The Witcher: pb/Bogusław Polch]

The Hussite Trilogy

  • Narrenturm (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 2002) [The Hussite Trilogy: pb/Tomasz Piorunowski]
    • The Tower of Fools (London: Gollancz, 2020) [trans by David French of the above: Hussite Trilogy: hb/]
  • Boży wojownicy ["Warriors of God"] (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 2004) [The Hussite Trilogy: pb/Tomasz Piorunowski]
    • The Warriors of God (London: Gollancz, 2021) [trans by David French of the above: Hussite Trilogy: hb/]
  • Lux perpetua ["Light Perpetual"] (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 2006) [The Hussite Trilogy: pb/Tomasz Piorunowski]
    • Light Perpetual (London: Gollancz, 2022) [trans by David French of the above: Hussite Trilogy: hb/]

individual titles

  • Żmija ["The Viper"] (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 2009) [pb/Tomasz Piorunowski]

collections and stories

  • Wiedźmin ["The Witcher"] (Warsaw, Poland: Reporter, 1990) [coll: containing some early Witcher tales: pb/Andrzej Bilewicz]
    • "Spellmaker" in A Polish Book of Monsters (New York: Polish Institute of Arts and Science in America [PIASA] Books, 2010) edited by Michael Kandel [anth: trans by Michael Kandel of "Wiedźmin" from the above: pb/]
  • Świat króla Artura. Maladie ["The World of King Arthur. The Malady"] (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 1995) [novella plus essay: coll: pb/Małgorzata Śliwińska]
    • Maladie ["The Malady"] (Warsaw, Poland: Antropos, 2006) [novella from the above: chap: hb/Dagmara Matuszak]
    • "The Malady" in The Apex Book of World SF 2 (Lexington, Kentucky: Apex Publications, 2012) edited by Lavie Tidhar [anth: trans by Wiesiek Powaga of "Maladie" from the above: pb/Raúl Cruz]
  • Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna ["Something Ends, Something Begins"] (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 2002) [coll: pb/Piotr Potyra]
    • Maladie i inne opowiadania ["The Malady and Other Stories"] (Warsaw, Poland: SuperNOWA, 2012) [coll: exp of the above with author's introductions to all stories: pb/Tomasz Piorunowski]
  • The Malady and Other Stories (London: Gollancz, 2014) [coll: ebook: assembling stories from various collections above: na/]


further reading


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