The Poet's Eternal Spark in New Szymborska Discoveries
photo: courtesy of Wisława Szymborska Foundation
Polish readers are presented with a collection of illustrations, limerics and lyrical miniatures, as well as countless playful poetic forms and Szymborska's first short story, written when she was ten year old. These previously unpublished treasures were discovered and prepared by the late poet’s secretary, Michał Rusinek
Błysk rewolwru (The Glimmer of a Revolvr, in the editor's translation) is a piece of criminal prose, from which the collection borrows its title. With an erotic love triangle between Eljanna and her two "fiancees" it is most likely the first work of literature by the Nobel Prize laureate, written at age 10. This treasure was discovered at the bottom of her drawer by her longtime secretary, Michał Rusinek, and survived many decades as a few printed pages.
In his introduction, Bronisław Maj, Szymborska’s longtime friend and a poet and lecturer at the Jagiellonian University, is an unparalleled guide to Szymborska’s imagination as a child. He wonders, about Błysk Rewolwru:
Was the real and nearly natural destiny of WS supposed to be... PROSE, great and monumental epic literature? "Błysk rewolwru!" - the title itself is already a masterpiece of infantile and Mozartian intuition, with that ellided 'e', with that hint of fire!!!”
Szymborska’s Playful Wor(l)ds
"Błysk rewolweru" - book cover
The collection is chronologized into four parts. Rusinek reveals that each part reflects an attempt at peeking into one of the drawers with Szymborska’s works. Juwenilia (Juvenilla) includes the aforementioned criminal romance and is decorated with the poet’s illustrations and early attempts at drawing out letters as a child. It also include children’s rhymes. The second part is entitled Na Krupniczej, w szufladzie i na rybach (On Krupnicza Street, In the Drawer, and Out Fishing) and includes works from the 1950s. The reader is guided across the different places that had significance in Szymborska’s life. The Dom Literatów (House of the Literaries) had its headquarters on Krupnicza Street 22, and it was where Szymborska lived and wrote together with her husband at the time, Adam Włodek. It was in this House of the Muses that she composed her poem about a dancing Flaszen and the humorous Moskaliki poems, long considered to have been lost.
Szuflada (The Drawer) is the name of the section gathering works from the 1970s - the nickname given to Szymborska’s new, incredibly small apartment. According to Maj, the period marks the "era of Kornel" Filipowicz, Szymborska’s life partner, and it is saturated with echoes of the couple’s fishing escapades. It was in the Szuflada apartment that Szymborska created the famous erotic poem Meblościanka, later sung by Grzegorz Turnau and Anna Radwan. It was also during this time that, together with Filipowicz, Szymborska created the Słownik wyrazów obelżywych (The Dictionary of Abusive Words).
Utwory gatunkowe (Genre Works) is the third chapter of the book, and presents the literary genres invented by Szymborska, who explains the meanings of the new forms in footnotes. They are limerics, but also adoralies (adoralia in the original), raisefieberettes (rajzefieberki) and hotel glueys (lepieje hotelowe). The latter were meant to discourage stays in a hotel, as Szymborska's distaste for travelling was well known.
photo: courtesy of Wisława Szymborska Foundation
The Durne Jamy, a charming little getaway near the town of Lubomierz by the Polish-Czech border was an exception, and Szymborska travelled there with friends nearly every summer. Ryszard Krynicki, Grzegorz Turnau, Ewa Lipska, Adam Zagajewski and Bronisław Maj (described by the poet as “capable of everything”) - all kept her company in Durne Jamy. Maj in return pictures Szymborska in the following words:
For a few decades I had the rare priviledge - oh, I know, the undeserved and miraculous gift, a bonus from fate - to every so often observe the Poet from up close, in the beams of inextiguishable surprise and awe. The admiration I had for her was a kind of alpine spa treatment. [...] I am the witness of a unique physiological phenomenon: WS perceives and transforms the world, taking it in and dismantling it to primary pieces, remounting its elements as she assimilates them, only to - one fine and yet unknown day - emit an organic miracle: a verse of poetry, a solitary cell is not detention!
This is a surprising book, and it presents scattered bits of Szymborska’s less serious pieces as well as her playful literary games. It spans from childhood drawings to the last verses Szymborska wrote in hospital, a few weeks before her death:
Holendrzy to mądra nacja
Oni wiedzą co zrobić
Gdy ginie naturalna oddychacja
The Dutch are a wise nation
They know what to do
When there is no more natural breathation
Editor: Anna Legierska, translated with edits by Paulina Schlosser, translation of Szymborska’s verse by Paulina Schlosser, source: press release, 09.05.2013
Błysk Rewolwru, Wisława Szymborska
Published by Agora and the Wisława Szymborska Foundation