Wisława Szymborska blurs frontiers

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Caught from Commons. Public domain.

If you live in Northern Europe you probably know who Wisława Szymborska was. Her poems deserved the Nobel Prize in 1996 and her pet subject, which was the disasters after a war, lures the German readers. Also, she developed great technical skills to make a poem, all of them on the basis of the smoothness and plainness. All in all, although her talent has stunned me, I don’t know anything about her technique. The reason is that I don’t speak Polish. And German readers either.

Spanish is the language whereby I know Szymborska. It is so different from Polish that you hardly appreciate the way a poem is composed apart from getting the big structure. Nonetheless, most of them shine with a characteristic beauty I admire. So here is my question. Why is able a translated poem to move someone?

I have often thought that you need to master both art and technique. And I think that is needed in poetry, in architecture and in sciences as well. But now I think I may be wrong. Perhaps there is something in a good piece of whatever thing which outranks all the rest. But I still consider you must master the language to soar above all the idiomatic boundaries. I may be looking for it, and that’s why I read Szymborska over and over again, in spite of missing lots of language subtleties.

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