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Józef Wittlin (1896–1976) was a Polish novelist, poet and translator.

Józef Wittlin
Józef Wittlin.PNG
Born(1896-08-17)August 17, 1896[1]
DiedFebruary 28, 1976(1976-02-28) (aged 79)
American (since 1949)[1]
OccupationAuthor, Poet, Translator
Years active1920–1963[1]
Known forhis expressionist and realist poetry
Notable work
Salt of the Earth (Sól ziemi, 1935)[2]



After graduating from a classical gimnazjum in Lviv Wittlin joined the volunteer military formation of the Polish Legion in August 1914. His unit was however soon disbanded due to the refusal of the Poles to take the oath for the Austrian government. Subsequently he went to Vienna, where he passed the Matura and began studying philosophy. With his friend Joseph Roth he again joined the Austrian army in 1916 and after some military training was drafted into the infantry. Shortly before being sent to the Italian front he fell ill with scarlet fever and was thus prevented from direct participation in the fighting. His military service took place far off the front and included among other things working as a translator in Prisoner-of-war camps with Italian soldiers.

In 1922 he moved to Łódź and 1927 to Warsaw. Since 1924 he was married to Halina Handelsmann. At this time he undertook extensive travels through Europe which significantly influenced his work. At the outbreak of World War II he lived in Paris, from where he was evacuated in May 1940 to Biarritz. With the help of Hermann Kesten he and his family succeeded to escape in January 1941 from Nice through Spain and Portugal to New York where he remained after the war.


  • Anthems (Hymny), Poems (1920)
  • War, peace and the soul of a poet (Wojna, pokój i dusza poety), essays (1925)
  • From the memoirs of a former pacifist (Ze wspomnień byłego pacyfisty) (1929)
  • Stages (Etapy), travel notes (1933)
  • Salt of the Earth[3] (Sól ziemi), the first novel of an envisioned, unfinished trilogy Tale of a Patient Infantryman[4] (1935)
  • My Lviv (Mój Lwów), memories (1946)
  • Orpheus in the underworld of the twentieth century (Orfeusz w piekle XX wieku), essays (1963)
  • Poems (Poezje) (1978, posthumously)


  1. ^ a b c Józef Wittlin at Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ Salt of the Earth at Encyclopædia Britannica
  3. ^ Wittlin, Józef (1970). Salt of the earth: A novel. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0811715041.
  4. ^ Miłosz, Czesław (October 24, 1983). The History of Polish Literature. Oakland: University of California Press. p. 423/424. ISBN 978-0520044777. Retrieved May 6, 2015.

Further readingEdit