Gustaw Herling (1919–2000) was born in Kielce, Poland. He began as a literary critic. During World War II, he was arrested by the Russians and confined in an arctic Gulag for two years. After gaining his release, he found a Polish military unit, and joined in the Allied assault in Italy. He then stayed in Rome and was a cofounder in 1947 of Kultura magazine, which sustained Polish culture during Communist rule. When the magazine moved to Paris, Herling went to London. But in 1952 he returned to Italy, where he stayed until his death. During his lifetime he won the Kultura, Juzykowski, Loscielski, and Wiadomosci prizes, as well as the Italian Premio Viareggio, the international Prix Gutenberg, and the French PEN-Club Award.
The Noonday Cemetery & Other Stories, selected by Herling himself shortly before his death in 2000, are the 15 most representative and accomplished stories of the last two decades of his life. Contained herein are: "The Noonday Cemetery," in which the widow of a WWII German officer and a cemetery custodian are both shot to death unexplainably; "Beata Santa," about a Polish woman raped by Serbs and pressured to keep her child; "A Hot Breath of the Desert," describing the lives of an archeologist couple, who settle down in the idyllic region of Lucania, until the wife (who’s witnessed WWII’s horrors), mysteriously loses her memory; and "A Madrigal of Mourning," in which a woman musicologist falls in love with Carlo Gesualdo (1560-1613), Prince of Venosa, a madrigalist and murderer. Gustaw Herling’s memoir A World Apart is among the most powerful accounts of life in the Soviet gulag. And since Herling’s collection of interlinked novellas, The Island, was published to great acclaim in 1993, the number of American readers of this writer "of extraordinary talent and scope" (Louis Begley, The New York Times Book Review) has grown. The Boston Globe has said that Herling is "a writer of stylistic mastery and moral depth, who deserves to be placed among the best in any language."