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The song of imperfection

· The self-mockery of Wisława Szymborska ·

It was not easy to get her to talk about her poetry; about this biographers, friends, former colleagues and students all agree. Especially after 1996, the year she received the Nobel Prize for literature. "Are there butterflies eager to impale themselves on a pin?" Wisława Szymborska replied to every attempt to make her comment on her works.

"I do not know what poetry is. All I know is - the Polish writer, who died on 1 February 2012, repeated in her interviews - you have to be capable of astonishment. But this has already been said by Montaigne. I do not cultivate great philosophy, rather modest poetry. The existentialists are serious in a monumental and monotonous way, and they do not like to joke (...) In excessive seriousness I always see something that is a bit 'funny'.

A sense of humour can coexist very well with a keen awareness of pain and the constant discomfort of having to accept oneself with all one’s limitations and errors.

"Nothing happens twice / or will happen. For this reason / we are born without experience / we die without addiction," she writes in Nulla due volte published in 1957, which has today become a popular song in Poland.

"I apologize to everyone if I do not know how to be every man / and every woman / I know that as long as I live nothing justifies me, / because I am an obstacle to myself. / Not having one, a tongue / if I borrow / pathetic words, / and then I struggle to make them look frivolous” she continues on the same theme in Sotto una piccola stella.

"I - a teenager?" She writes in the poem of the same name, in which she does not conceal the embarrassment of seeing herself again young, superficial, conformist and obtusely ideological, just like many of her peers. "If now, suddenly, she were to show up here, / remote? / Shed a tear, / kiss her on the forehead / for the sole reason / that our date of birth is the same? / We are so different, / our thoughts and words so different. / She knows a little - / but with an obstinacy worthy of a better cause. / I know so much more - / but not with certainty. / (...) As a farewell nothing, a sketchy smile / and no emotion. "

"It is not easy to deal with one’s own conscience. Prying into the conscience of someone else - she writes in one of the shorter pieces of prose collected together in Lektury nadobowiązkowe (in Italian Letture facoltative , Adephi, 2006), recalling the uproar stirred up by the publication of the diaries of Thomas Mann in Germany - is, however, much more simple and strengthens us in our conviction of being better. "

Appraising her greater or lesser distance from the totalitarian regimes that have tragically marked the life of her country - as many have done and continue to do - leads us to discover unexpected paradoxes. The Lektury nadobowiązkowe

themselves for example, were born out of a punitive measure. Having returned in 1966, the membership card of the PZPR (Polish United Workers' Party) the direction of the magazine "Życie Literackie" considered it impossible to entrust her with an editorial role and asked her to write reviews.

"The thing ended well. I was no longer forced - Wisława Szymborska will say years later to Anna Bikont and Joanna Szczesna - to sit around all day at the desk reading kilos of texts, mostly mediocre ones. I able to write as I wished."

And to write reviews of events both small and great, public or private, from the always slightly intimidated meetings with the great poet Czesław Miłosz to the miraculous beauty of the voice of Ella Fitzgerald.

She is even able to recount the end of life, with a sympathy carefully hidden under a conversational and knowing tone, more and more convinced that in the maze of existence "it is not we who look for the exit. It is the exit that looks for us."

"There is no life - she writes in Sulla morte, senza esagerare – which at least for a moment / is not immortal. / Death / is always late for that moment. / In vain it shakes the handle / of an invisible door. / No one can steal / the time gained. "




St. Peter’s Square

Nov. 20, 2019