Fire and Sword, II
I am not sensing a great deal of interest in this great novel, but I shall raise one question to see if it receives a response. If readers have got at least a fourth of the way through the work, they will have read the account of Pan Jan's diplomatic journey, his capture, and his trials.
The are two striking features of this account. The more obvious one is the brilliance of the author's skill in depicting high adventure. An American cannot help thinking of historical and fictional narratives of the Wild West. The savagery and alcoholic madness of the Cossacks, the inhumanity of the Tartars are depicted without flinching.
The second is the depiction of heroic manhood. In the Anglo-American tradition--apart from some of the works of humor set on the Southern frontier, courage is accompanied by reticence and even irony, but among the Poles and Russians and the more disciplined of the Cossacks, we find ourselves in Homeric company, though even Achilles is kind and humane when compared with the Cossacks.
There is no nonsense about equality. Pan Jan is conscious of his own nobility and will accept no favors from his inferiors. He is ready to disdain the favor of his life even when it comes at the hands of so brave--and noble--a rogue as Helmnitski, and he will not back down an inch, if compromise would detract from his loyalty to his prince.
I'd be delighted to talk about this further....It is, of course, possible that the length of the work, combined with the exotic setting and unfamiliar history, presents an insuperable obstacle even to intelligent and determined readers.