Wojciech Karpiński is a historian of ideas, literary critic, art historian and translator, who was born in Warsaw in 1943. Broadly educated and well read, he has a brilliant command of style, and occupies a place among the very best Polish essayists of the middle generation. He has won many awards, such as the Koscielski Prize (1975), the Ingram Merrill Award (1978) and the Jurzykowski Foundation Prize (1989). He has lived since 1982 in Paris and is employed at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. In the 70s and early 80s, he began publishing profiles of nineteenth-century Polish politicians, thinkers and statesmen. He was concerned with determining which of these figures led the way, through their reflections and actions, to the recovery of Polish independence. As he later explained, he set himself the task of attaining individual freedom, spiritual development, and above all liberation from the intellectual terror and ordinary colorlessness of communist Poland. From the moment when he settled in the West, Karpiński began to make use of a wider, European perspective. He also found literary material in the many journeys, both real and imagined, that he undertook in order to document his artistic fascinations. His best-known collection of essays is Memory of Italy, which contains sketches of Venice, Piero della Francesca, Piranesi and Machiavelli, as well as other Italian localities and artists. At the same time, the book is a record of his own spiritual labors, a tangible experience of the continuity of European culture. The Robber Books and The Insignia of Exile are devoted to emigré writers, bringing Witold Gombrowicz, Czeslaw Milosz and Gustaw Herling-Grudzinski together with Vladimir Nabokov, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, Hugo Hoffmansthal and Nicola Chiaromonte.
- Od Mochnackiego do Piłsudskiego. Sylwetki polityczne XIX wieku (wraz z Marcinem Królem), wyd. ocenzurowane: Kraków: Znak, 1974, wyd. pełne: Warszawa: Świat Książki, 1997.
- Szkice o wolności, Chicago: Polonia Book Fund, 1980.
- W Central Parku, Warszawa: Klin, 1980.
- Słowiański spór, Kraków: KOS, 1981.
- Cień Metternicha, Warszawa: PIW, 1982.
- Pamięć Włoch, Kraków: WL, 1982.
- Amerykańskie cienie, Paryż: Instytut Literacki, 1983.
- Chusteczka Imperatora, Londyn: Polonia Book Fund, 1983.
- Książki zbójeckie. Szkice o literaturze emigracyjnej, Londyn: Polonia Book Fund, 1988.
- Herb wygnania, Paryż: Zeszyty Literackie, 1989.
- Polska a Rosja. Z dziejów słowiańskiego sporu, Warszawa: PWN, 1994.
- Fajka Van Gogha, Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie, 1995.
- Portret Czapskiego, Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie, 1996.
- Prywatna historia wolności, Warszawa: Iskry, 1997.
- W Central Parku, Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie, 1998.
- Drzewa i ludzie, Lublin: Wyd. UMCS, 2000
- Twarze, Warszawa: Zeszyty Literackie, 2012
- Obrazy Londynu, Warszawa: Zeszyty Literackie, 2014
- Ces livres de grand chemin. Paris: Noir sur blanc 1992.