Wisława Szymborska Biography
poet and translator, who was awarded the Nobel Prize
for Literature in 1996, at the age of seventy-three. Szymborska is one of the
few woman poets who have received the prize. Her early works were born more or
less within the straitjacket of the Socialist Realism. Later she has expressed
her pessimism about the future of mankind. While skepticism
has marked Szymborska's views of the human condition,
its has not stopped her from believing in the power of
words and the joy arising from imagination. Szymborska often uses ordinary
speech and proverbs but gives them a fresh and arresting meaning.
Is there then a world
where I rule
absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
become endless at my bidding?
The joy of
The power of
Revenge of a
(from 'The Joy
of Writing,', 1967)
Szymborska was born in Bnin (now part of Kornick) in western Poland. In 1931 her family moved to
Krakow. They lived near the railway station.
From the kitchen window Szymborska watched trains with enthusiasm. However, she
never left Poland.
With her friends she created a theater game based on
the works of Henryk Sienkiewicz. At the age of nine
she become interested in films - especially those
which were forbidden to her. Karl Freund's Mummy (1932), starring Boris
Karloff, inspired Szymborska to visit a history museum, which had two mummies
in its care. During World War II, when German occupied Poland, her mother refused to leave Krakow. Szymborska attended illegal classes and joined an
underground theater, where she worked as a prompter.
In a wartime writing she stated, that "Hitler
gives the Germans something to be enthusiastic about and offer up their lives
for that, for those Germans, Hitler is great. Don't you understand that the
power of a movement depends on the human beings it produces?" After the
war, from 1945 to 1948, Szymborska studied Polish literature and sociology at
University in Krakow.
From 1953 to 1981 she worked on the Krakow
literary magazine Zycie Literacia
as poetry editor and columnist.
a poet Szymborska made her debut with the poem Szukam
slowa which was published in the newspaper Dziennik Polski in 1945. Three
years later she finished her fist collection of poems, but the book was not
published. The Communist had gained power tightening their cultural policy and Szymborska's work was considered too complex and bourgeois.
She returned to the work, made it more political and her first collection DLAGTEGO
ZYJEMY, appeared in 1952. Szymborska have also published collections of
literary columns, several of which first appeared in Zycie
many Poles, Szymborska became disillusioned with communism. 'I looked back in
terror where to step next...' Her later work have been more personal and
relatively apolitical, although he has noted "Apolitical poems are
political too" in 'Children of This Age'. The 1957 collection of poems,
WOLANIE DO YETI (calling out to Yeti), marks her first break with socialist-realist
literature. In 'Still Life with Toy Balloon' she wrote: "Fly off through
the open window, / fly off into the wide world, / let someone cry out: Oh! / so I can weep."
years later published STO POCIECH is considered Szymborska's
first work of her mature period. When Communism claimed it was the final answer
to the question about ideal form of society, Szymborska admitted that she has
no knowledge of Utopia, but only an ironic view of it as an "island where
everything comes clear." Her role in the society she saw as vague: "I
am ignorant of the role I perform. / All I know is
it's mine, can't be exchanged."
has been married twice. Since the early 1990s she has been a widow and lived in
Krakow. After the Nobel award she retrested to Zakopane to escape
reporters and well-wishers and to write her acceptance speech. "I'm a
private person," she told in a telephone conversation to Czeslaw Milosz, her countryman, who had won the prize in
1980, and emigrated to the United States. "... inspiration is not the exclusive privilege of poets or
artists generally. There is, has been, and will always be a certain group of
people whom inspiration visits. It's made up of all those who've consciously
chosen their calling and do their job with love and imagination... Whatever
inspiration is, it's born from a continuous "I don't know."'(from Nobel Lecture, 1996) Szymborska's
two poems published in the magazine Orda (1/2000)
expressed her feelings of aging and strangeness - she sees that we are only
visitors in a cosmic party. Before and after the Nobel Prize Szymborska have
avoided literary gatherings, but her personal example and devotion to poetry
has inspired young women all over the world to choose career in literature.
CHWILA (2002), which appeared when Szymborska was 79, contained 23 poems. Szymborska's writing in Nonrequired
Reading: Prose Pieces (2002) is misleadingly casual - her incisive views on
scientists, gardening, fairy tales, fashion, and other subjects stand up for
repeated readings without losing their freshness. DWUKROPEK (2005) was Szymborska's second collection of poems after the Nobel