Franciszka was the daughter of one of the best tailors in Minsk; Ignacy, a pharmacist with little social standing or money, was a descendent of an old Lithuanian princely family. Their first child was born on 27 July In he was sent to Moscow to attend a secondary school run by the Polish Committee. Here he witnessed the February Revolution. The school year was cut short, and the young Giedroyc travelled to St Petersburg to visit his uncle Wiktor Giedroyc, whom he failed to meet.
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She spent her early childhood there, ne! In , when Szymborska was eight, her family moved to the historic city of Krakow—as much the informal capital of southern Poland as Poznan is of its western reaches—to settle down for good. When the Gimnazjum was shut down during the Nazi German occupation of the city, she attended underground classes, passing her final exams in the spring of During the war, she began to write short stories, of which she has remained critical.
After the war Szymborska studied first Polish philology and then sociology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow but never completed a degree. The Postwar Years The war had a profound effect on Szymborska. The poem expresses the inadequacy of language in the face of the personal and collective experience of war.
These poems and others of this period were published in newspapers and periodicals, and only a few of them were ever anthologized, generally much later. Socialist realism was a movement promoted by the government of the Soviet Union as a way to ensure that all art contributed positively to society; to this end, the movement emphasized optimism and pride in communist ideals and cultural triumphs. The movement also worked against those artists who sought to question those in power or the current state of society.
She was accused of writing poetry that was inaccessible to the masses and too preoccupied with the horrors of war. A two-year poetic silence followed. The marriage ended in divorce in Krupnicza Street played an important role in the literary life of Poland in the postwar period.
Following World War II , several dozen poets, writers, and translators shared close quarters and dined together at the Krupnicza complex, including Czeslaw Milosz , Jerzy Andrzejewski, poet Artur Miedzyrzecki, Maciej Slomczynski Shakespeare translator and author of crime novels under the pen name Joe Alex , poets Konstanty Ildefons Galczynski and Anna Swieszczynska, and the foremost postwar scholar of Polish literature, Artur Sandauer.
Some lived there for a short period of time, awaiting the rebuilding of Warsaw, but for Szymborska and others it was to be home for many years.
Szymborska worked as an assistant editor in publishing houses until , when she became the editor of the poetry section of the Krakow-based weekly Zycie Liter-ackie Literary Life , a position she held until She remained on the board as a regular contributor until Calling Out to Yeti has been considered a transitional volume, one in which her basic themes begin to take shape. Solidarity and Support During the s, Polish protesters held mass anticommunism demonstrations. Although her sympathies were aroused by the growing political opposition, Szymborska remained hesitant to adopt the role of spokesperson for political causes, perhaps because she felt she had earlier misplaced her trust in the promise of socialism.
For Szymborska, the s were a relatively prolific period. She produced two volumes of poetry, both marked by a strong existentialist streak. With the emergence of the Solidarity movement in , the Society and similar initiatives found themselves briefly freed from earlier encumbrances. Szymborska began her affiliation with the newly formed Krakow journal Pismo Writing , the editorial board of which included many of her closest friends, among them fiction writer and poet Kornel Filipowicz, her longtime companion.
Following the declaration of martial law on December 13, , the composition of the editorial board of Pismo shrank as the government imposed demands on it, and Szymborska began to distance herself. Similarly, Szymborska terminated her thirty-year association with Zycie Literackie during this period. When it was published, People on the Bridge garnered her praise and several awards, including one from the Ministry of Culture, which she declined, and the Solidarity Prize, which she accepted.
Tom Wolfe — : Cofounder of the New Journalism movement of the s and s incorporating literary techniques into reporting , Wolfe is renowned for his fast-paced, technically brilliant nonfiction chronicles of contemporary society. Sebald — : Sebald has been hailed by many as the greatest German writer of the postwar period; his novels are known for their lucid but surreal shifts in perspective and style.
Szymborska won her most prestigious award, the Nobel Prize in Literature, in Despite, or perhaps due to, giving the shortest acceptance speech in literary Nobel history, she went from being an intensely private person to a public figure, vigorously pursued by the media.
Since then, however, Szymborska has continued to be known for her quiet way of life and unwillingness to embrace the status of a celebrity.
She shuns public gatherings, rarely travels abroad, hates being photographed or interviewed, and, except for her human rights and democratic reform activities, refuses to be involved in partisan politics. She is nevertheless quite involved in the cultural landscape of Krakow and maintains lively contacts with a small circle of friends. Her dislike of being in the limelight is by no means a sign of antisocial inclinations. Simple Details Szymborska emphasizes and examines the chance happenings of daily life and of personal relations in her poetry.
She refuses to wear the cloak of the prophet and harbors no illusions about changing the world or even the local political landscape with her poetry. As a result, she writes with the liberation of a jester. Szymborska has drawn attention for her irreverence toward the lofty and self-important and for her exaltation of the lowly and seemingly trivial. A Poet of Socialism? With this involvement, she participated in the socialist-realist aesthetic that changed the course of Polish literature.
As party pluralism was replaced by the authoritarian, single-party state, a new literature arose that served to illustrate ready-made slogans, culminating in formulaic propaganda. Szymborska was far from alone among her contemporaries in joining in the chorus of communist apologists, accepting the new codes of speech, and selecting topics fit for use as propaganda.
Reflecting an enthusiasm for the socialist utopia, her first volume and its successor, Questioning Oneself , , are dominated by politically engaged poetry. The Swedish Academy awarded her the Nobel Prize in on the basis of poems from her third collection, Calling Out to the Yeti, and thereafter.
The Academy saw this collection as a reaction against Stalin, but Szymborska has challenged that interpretation of her work. This poem is a quick sketch of a red wheelbarrow. It has captured the fancies of generations and has been seen as reflective of the imagist philosophy. Death Comes for the Archbishop , a novel by Willa Cather. This historical novel portrays two French priests setting out to establish a diocese in New Mexico.
Works in Critical Context Wislawa Szymborska was thrust into the international spotlight in after receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature. Szymborska is a world-class poet, and this book will go far to make her known in the United States. Discuss why Szymborska opted to anthologize these poems together.
Do the different poems reflect on one another in some ways? What sorts of details draw her attention? What are the advantages and disadvantages of taking on a perspective such as hers? Find an example of a poem where Szymborska uses a small and apparently insignificant detail to reflect on a large and important issue.
What are some of the effects of this technique? Levine, Madeline G. Contemporary Polish Poetry — Boston: Twayne, Neuger, Leonard and Rikard Wennerholm, eds. Vitterhets Hisorieoch Antikvitets Akademien, Periodicals Badowska, Eva. Bojanska, Edyta M. Carpenter, Bogdana.
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