(Author: Henryk Sienkiewicz) + (Year: 1894) + (Goodreads)
Technically, the rating I would give Quo Vadis is 3.5, but I feel like 4 full stars would be misleading.
I’ve been living in Poland for a year now, and Quo Vadis is certainly the most famous piece of literature that came out of this country. Despite being written in 1894, this book is as much in line with the Polish mindset, as it was 124 years ago. That is to say, Quo Vadis, in its essence is a praise to Christianity in its most basic and purest form.
Sienkiewicz is undoubtedly a great writer. The style of Quo Vadis is very sophisticated without being overly philosophical and complicated. Both the writing and the ideas of the book are easily accessible to any reader, and yet, the writing is very beautiful and poetical.
On the other hand, I see that this book would appeal to a certain type of crowd and it might not be as enthralling for others. I started reading it without knowing anything about the theme, and therefore, I did not have the opportunity to feel prejudiced or doubtful. Now, as I mentioned, Quo Vadis is a book which leans heavily on religion. It glorifies and idealizes Christianity to a point it might become burdensome to a reader who is not as engaged with religion. And the issue here is not that the book lies, or preaches fake morale, on the contrary, it spreads the original version of the New Testament Christianity – love to all, forgiveness for all, good deeds and compassion. It would be a lie if I said that Sienkiewicz urges people to do anything else, because he really does underline the importance of the goodness in people.
However, a critical mind can’t help but take not only the contents of the book, but also the reality of religion in consideration. Yes, in terms of this book, the author does not say anything of the bad things which have emerged from Christianity, and yes, maybe the world would be a better place if Christians actually followed the true pillars of their religion. But this experiment has been going on for 2000 years, and just as the followers of the Greek and Roman gods, who are greatly demonized in Quo Vadis, have done bad deeds, so have Christians. In fact, no other religion has ever been deadlier.
Therefore, I would just accept the sermons in the book without mentioning them, if the book itself was written at a time no one knew where this religion would ultimately lead. Unfortunately, Quo Vadis was written in the 19th century, and Sienkiewicz knew very well that just as Nero was torturing Christians in his book, so did Christians torture, maim and kill countless people in the times of the Crusades, the Inquisition and the witch hunts, even up to our times, and not to even mention issues such as molestation, abortion, and so on. And I know that it might be unjust to bring this up in terms of this particular book, but this is the context of the philosophy of the book, and no matter how much I wished it was possible to take everything out of context, because it would be so much clear, that is not the situation, and when we form an opinion about something, we need to look into the background, as well.
That set aside, I would say that Quo Vadis, as a narrative and story, was very engaging and even enticing, because one could anticipate historical events which were made part of the book. Most of all, I enjoyed the final scene of St Peter, as the historical event was beautifully interwoven within the book and as a glimpse both at the future of Nero, but also at the future of Italy and the Vatican much, much later. Actually it was St Peter that was my favourite character in the book overall. He stood aside the romantic events of Vinicius and Lygia’s lives and was the symbol of the purest form of faith that one can have. As I mentioned above, if Christians did believe, as he did, wholeheartedly and with absolute devotion, the world but be amazing, wouldn’t it?