In the hours following the news that Poland's prized poet had passed away, her fellow writers, translators, friends and family shared their thoughts on how her life and poetry impacted their world
Cover of "Here", translated by Cavanagh and Barańczak, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2010
In Germany Karl Dedicius mourned the loss of a great poet and human being, recalling "I worked with her and her poems for 50 years. I know her through and through. But the moment a loved one and friend dies, one does not speak or write of it".
Anders Bodegard, the poet's Swedish translator, shared the impression that her poems are "difficult for a translator because of the exceptional precision, every word has a meaning and every poem has its own identity. Her poems are uplifting, yet they are not sweet".
Clare Cavanagh, Szymborska's American translator, gave a statement to the Polish Press Agency (PAP) on Wednesday evening about how her relationship with the poet changed her perspective on the world. She said, "I believe I was very fortunate to have encountered such a poet thanks to Stanisław Barańczak. Thanks to Szymborska I see the world through different eyes because she described the world in such a way that one cannot look at it as before". Cavanagh described the poet's writing as a "unique gift" that came with both greatness and modesty. She called Szymborska "one of her favourite poets on the planet" and also "a friend".
Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak are among the best-known translators of Polish poetry into English. Their translations of Szymborska's poetry include such collections as "Here", published in its U.S. edition in 2010 and "Monologue of a Dog", published in 2005.
Piotr Kamiński, Szymborska's French translator said that working with her poems was like "polishing diamonds". He also expressed the belief that her poems are a great challenge as they are "misleading simple". He averred that when he first began translating her works, he approached them carefully, literally word for word. As Kamiński told PAP,
Every word seemed to fit, however when I would read the poem in French, it was as if everything had 'leaked out', snatched away - the poem was gone. This is why I had to return to the original, calmly and patiently, to find the hole through which the poetry had escaped and to quickly plug this 'hole'.
Kamiński also expressed his dismay that Szymborska's poetry is not as well known in France, a nation that seems to prefer its native poets. However, he did note a spike in interest after she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1996, with a collection of poems distributed in France that year reaching a relatively high level of circulation at 7,000 copies.
Following her Nobel win, Wisława Szymborska received a flurry of congratulations and expressions of admiration from her fellow poets in Poland and around the world. Among the warmest of these came from Czesław Miłosz who wrote in the Tygodnik Powszeczny weekly,
For me, Szymborska is above all a poet of the conscience. This is to say that she speaks to us, simultaneously to those who live alongside her, as one of us, keeping her private affairs to herself, acting within a certain distance from us, but at the same time referring to that which we all are familiar with in our own lives.
As recently as December 2011, Italy published a new edition of poems by Wisława Szymborska published under the title "Elogio dei Sogni", (In Praise of Dreams) which opened the new Century of Poetry series published by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. The translator of the volume was Pietro Marchesani, who passed away in November 2011, who once referred to himself as a "boatman who unites, one who approaches, linking, overcoming obstacles, one culture to another culture ... (..) .. But it can not always carry all ... (..) This ferryman places this burden upon himself to decide what is essential and what is not essential ... (..) .. So you have to negotiate what to save and what not to save. And of course this sort of negotiation is necessary for a translator". The publication of the edition was quite a big event, with the editor of the series, Nicola Crocetti remarking that wherever Szymborska would travel, "a huge number of her fans gather as if she was a famous rock star".
Polish writer Jerzy Pilch shared his memories of Szymborska in the Rzeczpospolita daily, also noting her unique qualities, her ability to attract attention, her sense of humour, her presence, her tact. For Pilch, Szymborska was the manifestation of freedom, in spite of her short episode with socialism and the socio-realist style inspired by her mentors.
Wisława Szymborska was a translator herself, making the works of writers such as the 16th century poet Theopile de Viau and Agrippe d'Aubigne accessible to Polish readers, as well as the verses of Charles Baudelaire.