One of the most respected Polish-language writers of the Twentieth century, he is particularly known for his 1937 masterwork, The Lover of Ursa Major. His other notable publications include the satirical work, The Memoirs of a Red Army officer, and the war memoir, The Tower of Babel.
He was sent to jail after attacking a teacher with a pistol. This event happened when he was in the seventh grade and marked the end of his formal education.
His books were banned by the Communists in the People's Republic of Poland after World War II.
He was the illegitimate son of a Polish nobleman and a Belarusian servant.