Quo Vadis?

Once again, family took my time and attention and I ran late for a review, until nearly 1 AM  yesterday morning my time when, just before bed, I checked in to see if the latest post by The Hound had gone up, and there it was.

In describing ‘too-much-information’ in the book he reviewed, Jeff brought to mind others that I had known, and how distracting TMI could be. However, one book that at first made me a bit antsy at first was the historical novel, Quo Vadis.

I go into spells of wanting to get ‘classics’ under my belt, (or actually, into my head). I am often disappointed in them, but I carry on. At one point, I had hours to wait every week for kids in classes, so I tackled this very fat paperback, which was on our shelves.

After a few, “Get on with the story already!” moments, I realized that the writer immersed me in the world that he was writing about, Ancient Rome in the time of Christ, the beginning of Christianity, and all around the people and places involved. I just went with it. I just let it flow and was rewarded.

I could see the main character, a Roman soldier. I could see the first sight of his home as he came back from war; I could see everything in his father’s scroll room. Those scenes stick out with me and I bring them up as examples because years later when I was asked to sit down to see the movie, I did so reluctantly. Yet, when the protagonist saw his home and lands for the first time in years, it was the home and lands I had already seen with him, and I was familiar with his father’s library when he entered it.

I had already ‘seen’ these places through the deep descriptions in the story.

(The set designers/artists did a fantastic job recreating descriptions from the book.)

Henryk Sienkiewicz   published Quo Vadis in 1896. People did not have movies, television, or any way that they could ‘see’ what stories were like, so novels tended to be long and descriptive, and they were not as impatient as those of us who grew up seeing images are. But this one is well worth it, if you have the patience. The book was originally in Polish, but caught fire and was translated into many languages very quickly, and many more soon afterward. I have not read any of his other works, but this novel was noted as a major contribution to Sienkiewicz winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1905. (Things moved slower then.)

If you have the time and patience, the book is well worth it. If you have read the book or seen the movie “The Robe”, that is really a cut-down version of Quo Vadis. I’d personally go so far as say it was downright plagiarism, simplified for the ‘modern’ masses.  Some years ago I picked up an anthology of stories from the early 1960s, (I believe), and there was a story in it called “The Spear”. At this point I would have to come out and call it a total rip-off of the original and most certainly of The Robe; it is a completely dumbed-down version of both. I have no idea why they were not called on it, but here you have it. Three levels of the same story, and both of the later ones pale in comparison, slipping down rapidly in each newer version.

Now I may look for more of Henryk Sienkiewicz’s works, (now there is a tongue-twister!) Maybe I can even find them on audiobook online, which would be helpful, again, getting in stories while doing other tasks.

 I will bet if you know any of these stories or their movie versions, it is probably only “The Robe”. I can’t imagine that “The Spear” was made into a film. Of course, “Quo Vadis” and “The Robe “ had their stories shortened and changed somewhat in translation to the screen. As we have discussed as a topic in the past, there are only a very few films that improved the books on which they are based; I personally only know three or four, (our ideas can be seen in the archives.)

(I thought that I had brought these stories up before, but I could not get the SEARCH to come up with them, so here we are.)

Let me know if you know any of the above stories, please let me know.
 I would love to hear your thoughts.


About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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6 Responses to Quo Vadis?

  1. Jeff Salter says:

    Well, since that author — and/or his translator — left you with such vivid impressions that you’d “been there,” I’d say he was successful in the balance of description to action to dialog.
    But, as you point out, things moved more slowly in earlier times and authors can be excused for painting lush, detailed pictures of costumes, furniture, rooms… and even garden gates.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL, “garden gates”! No, I don’t think that we can forgive that one!
      This was one of the few which did not have me tearing my hair out. I tried to listen to a reading of this author’s retelling of an old legend and I had to stop; it was incredibly repetative.
      I will keep searching.


  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Thanks for the reviews. I haven’t read or seen any of the titles you mentioned, so I can’t add to the discussion. I’m not sure I’d have the patience to carry on through lengthy descriptions, so I’m not sure I’ll search for the book, but I’m glad the film makers stayed true to the author’s vision.


    • The story was not modified MUCH for the movie,Patty, at least, the 1951 version. They redid it in 2001, but I never gave it much thought; I’d hate to spoil the ‘magic’ of when ‘we’ saw home when coming back to Italy, as it were.
      The book, The Robe, isn’t bad. I htinkTheSpear might have been a nice little story The Robe had never been published, let alone such a runaway hit. My mother even read it when sitting up after I was born.


  3. Elaine Cantrell says:

    I’ve never read Quo Vadis, but I have to admit too much detail can get on my nerves.i probably wouldn’t like it. I’ve never read the other titles either, but I saw part of the movie of The Robe.


    • I was determined, Elaine! But as I said, for me, at least, the details gave me the whole picture, unlike some that just drive me nuts. Seriously, the books that describe every piece of clothing the protagonist changes into , especially if it is basically the same type of clothes and the same colors, well, they make me scream.


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