17.06.2016 Books

Boundary by Zofia Nałkowska

Modernist classic of feminist fiction finally published in English

Available for the first time in English, Zofia Nałkowska’s Boundary was originally published as Granica in Poland in 1935. The modernist novel was widely discussed upon its publication and praised for its psychological realism and stylistic and compositional artistry. Over the years, it has been translated into several languages and made into a feature film, and remains a standard text in the Polish secondary school curriculum.

Nałkowska was a pioneer of feminist fiction in Central Europe. Her observation of inequality in the treatment of men and women is at the heart of Boundary, which explores a transgressive love affair and its repercussions. She perceived that men especially of the upper and middle classes felt free to have sexual relations with lower class women, whereas it was not socially acceptable for women of any class to have sexual relations outside of marriage, or even admit to enjoying sex. This meant that working class women were seduced and then abandoned when they became pregnant, leaving them with the stigma of illegitimate children and the problem of finding work. Meanwhile, the higher class wives found themselves betrayed.

While Boundary can be interpreted as a novel about power and its abuses, it contains several dimensions – philosophical, emotional, existential, moral – that render it a consummate piece of social criticism. An elegantly composed work of imaginative fiction, it does not preach or offer solutions.

Ursula Phillips’s excellent translation will interest readers of early twentieth century novels and scholars and students of Polish literature, feminist studies, and European modernism.


Ursula Phillips’s translation is excellent. She consistently captures the subtle modulations of Nałkowska’s style, while remaining faithful to the meaning. This is a crucial contribution to the library of Polish modernism available in English.
— Stanley Bill, University of Cambridge

Boundary is an integral part of the Polish literary canon and an important achievement of European modernism. The translation will undoubtedly reshape the transatlantic version of that canon and fortify the presence of the author among English language readers.
— Bożena Shallcross, University of Chicago


Zofia Nałkowska was a writer, journalist, playwright, diarist (1884-1954) who rose to prominence in the interwar years, serving as an executive member of the Polish Academy of Literature. Along with Pola Gojawiczyńska and Maria Kuncewiczowa, she was part of a core group of early feminist writers.

Read Nałkowska’s extended and incredibly rich biography on culture.pl

Ursula Phillips is a writer on Polish literature and translator of literary and academic works. Other translations include Maria Wirtemberska’s Malvina, or the Heart’s Intuition (1816) and Narcyza Żmichowska’s The Heathen (1846), also published by the Northern Illinois University Press. She is a translator of contemporary writers Wiesław Myśliwski and Agnieszka Taborska and editor of a recent book on post-1989 Polish literature: Polish Literature in Transformation (LIT-Verlag, 2013). She received the 2015 Found in Translation Award for her translation of Zofia Nałkowska’s Choucas (NIU Press, 2014).

By Zofia Nałkowska
Translated by Ursula Phillips
Published by Northern Illinois University Press
Publishing date: June 2016
ISBN: 978-0875807409
Buy online

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