Latest News > “The Island” 25% off

Peter Owen’s new edition of Gustaw Herling’s The Island, in our modern classics series, is available to buy now with a 25% discount and free postage! In this time of relative inactivity, we’d like to help make new reading material more widely available, and this reduction will also be applied to our other released modern classic Paris, France by Gertrude Stein.

Gustaw Herling (1919–2000) was born near Kielce, Poland. In 1939, after war interrupted his university studies, he helped found an anti-Nazi underground organization in Warsaw. He was arrested the following year and spent two years in a Stalinist slave-labour camp; his experiences there are described in A World Apart. After his release he joined the Polish army and went to Italy where he fought at Monte Cassino and was awarded the highest Polish military honour. When the war ended he lived in London and Munich, then moved to Naples where he wrote four highly regarded works of fiction and non-fiction. His writing achieved international status, and his work has been translated in more than seventeen languages.

Gustaw Herling’s autobiographical A World Apart has been widely acclaimed as a classic of contemporary literature. A new Peter Owen hardback edition of A World Apart is scheduled for release toward the end of this year or possibly in the new year, exact date TBA. The Island brings together three equally remarkable stories of timeless and enduring quality linked by their converging themes of passion, isolation and suffering related with mastery of form, psychological depth and symbolism.

The title story is a haunting tale of doomed lives centred on a decaying monastery and the inhabitants of an island near Naples during wartime. The passion of a stone-carver for a young woman moves inexorably to its tragic climax, influenced by their strange relationship with a priest, while from their fate emerges a profound sense of redemption.

The second tale, ‘The Tower’, narrates a search for shadowy outcasts bound together by their isolation from a hostile world. The central character is an Italian leper who embodies a belief in the capacity of the human heart to triumph.

The final story, ‘The Second Coming’, is set in Orvieto during the Black Plague and explores the eternally questing spirit of man. Here a wandering pilgrim falls victim to the terror of the city’s inhabitants. His fate is to have lasting repercussions, with intimations through his suffering of human salvation.

Acclaim for Gustaw Herling and The Island

‘Herling is a genius and now Poland’s most famous writer. His stories are astounding, powerful, passionate, mesmerizing.’ – Independent

‘A born writer and a marvellous storyteller . . . The prose is measured and beautiful. Herling is a master craftsman splendidly in control of his material . . . These are moving fables of spiritual growth.’ – Observer

The Island rightfully belong to the canon of great works of literature and is by a writer of extraordinary talent and scope . . . Multilayered, complex and sinuous, the tales demonstrate a humanistic, compassionate vision.’ – New York Times

‘One of Europe’s greatest contemporary writers.’ – Guardian

‘Reading The Island I felt an exhilaration that was like the exhilaration of that first moment of being touched and in some way shattered by great prose.’ – Edna O’Brien

‘Like Conrad before him, Gustaw Herling possesses an exceptional ability to evoke the essence of cultures alien to his own. His penetration of the Italian peasant ethos carries complete conviction.’ – Irish Times

‘A writer of stylistic mastery and moral depth who deserves to be placed among the best in any language.’ – Boston Sunday Globe


*The Island can be bought here , currently reduced from £10.99 to £8.24


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