“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said The Witcher author Andrzej Sapkowski during his panel in the Italian event Lucca Comics and Games. “If you have some questions I would like to answer them… or not. I haven’t beaten anybody just recently.” So began an incredibly quotable panel, brought to you in quotes and photos via our partner Witcherflix. This panel kicked off Netflix’s Halloween festivities of The Witcher, starring Henry Cavill.
On the 21st of June, 1948, the Polish author was born in the city of Lodz, where he lives to this day. After pursuing a degree in Economics at the university, Sapkowski began a long career as an international salesman, during which he studied many languages and explored every corner of the world. Later, Sapkowski began working as a translator of science fiction novels. That was where his award-winning relationship with writing began.
“They say there is always something inside of you that explodes, like in the Alien movie,” Sapkowski said, during the panel. “That was the case with me when I was a young guy, when I wrote a lot of stupid stuff. But I knew there was something inside of me.”
They say there is always something inside of you that explodes, like in the Alien movie. That was the case with me when I was a young guy when I wrote a lot of stupid stuff.
Inspired by his travels around the world and by his son’s request, Sapkowski decided to write a short story set in a fantasy world. This story, published in Fantastyka magazine in 1986, was called The Witcher – Sapkowski’s first story featuring Geralt of Rivia. “When I create any hero or personage, it’s always for serving the tale. They should serve the fable. The story is the queen.”
Sapkowsi went on to write many short stories in the Witcher universe, which he named “The Continent.” Each short story took a famous fairy tale and flipped it on its head, providing a raunchy, violent and often hilarious collection of tales that seamlessly wove together themes of philosophy, romance, and family. So, which was Sapkowski’s favorite short story? “It’s like asking me among my many daughters, who is more beautiful?”
With the short stories completed and fit into two collections, Sapkowski wrote five additional, full-length novels to complete the saga (and, very recently, a sixth novel set during the time of the short stories). The series was a huge success, and the novels were translated to over twenty different languages. Unfortunately, the author’s true intentions can sometimes be lost in the translation. “The translator is a traitor, as an Italian saying goes. Nobody asked me about the translation, only very rarely. But what can I do with Korean, Finnish, Hungarian translations? I’m in the hands of the translators. I do speak about 20 languages, but not Hungarian and Finnish.”
The story is the queen.
Often, Sapkowski’s series is lauded for its portrayal of Slavic culture, yet Sapkowski’s inspiration extends far and wide. One particularly strong inspiration is the Arthurian legend. “The Arthurian myths are so universal that practically every fantasy book is deeply rooted in the Arthurian myths.”
Throughout the series’ thirty-three years, it has become so successful that it was adapted into movies, television shows, graphic novels, a game trilogy, and even a musical. The video games, developed by CD Projekt Red, serve as a non-canonical sequel to the author’s saga. With their recent entry, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, the games became even more successful than the books. Sapkowski, of course, lays claim to that success: “I’m the master of the video games… But I didn’t play them.”
This December, Netflix is going to launch the first season of its long-awaited adaption of the saga, and the author insists that he was not very involved in the project. “Nobody believes me that I can only see the letters [sent by the producers of the show]. I don’t know anything else.” Not long ago, The Witcher‘s showrunner Lauren Hissrich explained Sapkowski’s approach to the show: “Sapkowski doesn’t want to see ingredients to the soup, he wants to taste the soup. He has access to the scripts and dailies but doesn’t want to see them.”
Regarding Sapkowski’s visit to the set, Hissrich added: “He was very excited. He was wiping tears away at some points. He was excited to see how dedicated we were. We’ve cut no corners to bring this to life.” And, indeed, it seems the author is quite confident in the show’s success.
Sapkowski has written another notable series, the Hussite Trilogy, which has yet to be translated to English (or most languages, for that matter). The author believes that to be his best work. “I consider the Hussite Trilogy as my tour de force. I don’t believe that I can do anything better.”
Unfortunately, Sapkowski did not address the new Witcher novel which he is writing (according to certain rumors), nor did he delve deep into the upcoming Netflix show. “I like to read every kind of book,” he said, towards the end of the panel. “I read maybe 100 books a year. Of all kinds. I love it, this is my life. I like imagination. I not only read it, I live it.”
In the middle of the panel, Lucca representatives brought Sapkowski a plaster cast, on which he placed his hands. The author was happy to do it. “I love Lucca. Invite me once again and I’ll come here.”
Tomorrow, Sapkowski will once again rise to the stage at Lucca, where he is scheduled to present a second panel with Hissrich and further discuss the show. Following that panel, Netflix will release the much-anticipated trailer for The Witcher, featuring Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia. Furthermore, Sapkowski will be holding meet and greet sessions with the fans every day of the convention.
With three days left to Lucca Comics and Games, we haven’t heard his last mic-dropping quote of the week. For now, we’ll leave you with the panel’s best: “Everybody can read and write stories,” Sapkowski said towards the end of his panel on Wednesday. “But not everybody can write well. But I can. You just take your pen.”