Posts Tagged ‘Poland’
June 11, 2012 | by Witold Gombrowicz
Among literature’s famous first lines, we must include this one: “Monday. Me. Tuesday. Me. Wednesday. Me. Thursday. Me.” It comes from Witold Gombrowicz’s Diary, widely considered the Polish author’s masterpiece. Yet Gombrowicz didn’t make his first entry until 1953, when he was forty-nine and an expatriate in Argentina, and the last entry was made in 1969 from France, shortly before his death. Still, the Diary lacks for nothing: history, politics, philosophy, literature, art, music, love, death, humor, communism, Poland, Europe, writing—everything is there.
Long out of print, the Diary will be republished next week by Yale University Press as part of their Margellos World Republic of Letters series. But we have unofficially dubbed this one Gombrowicz Week and will be sharing entries from 1954 and 1955 here daily.
Yesterday (Thursday) a cretin began to bother and worry me all day. Perhaps it would be better not to write about this … but I do not want to be a hypocrite in this diary. It began when I first went to Acasusso to Mr. Alberto H.’s (an industrialist and engineer) for breakfast. At first glance, his villa seemed too Renaissance, but not betraying this impression, I sat down at the table (also Renaissance) and began to eat dishes whose Renaissance in the course of eating became more and more obvious at which time the conversation, too, settled on the Renaissance until finally and completely openly and even passionately one began to adore Greece, Rome, naked beauty, the call of the flesh, evoe, Pathos and Ethos (?) and even some column or other on Crete. When it got to Crete, the cretin crawled out, crawled out (?) and crept up but not in Renaissance manner (?!) but quite neoclassically cretinously (?) (I know that I should not write about this, this sounds rather odd).
February 6, 2012 | by Lorin Stein
Last week Wisława Szymborska died in Kraków at the age of eighty-eight. Szymborska received the Nobel Prize in 1996 and was Poland’s best-loved living poet. Her poem “Negative” appeared in issue 144 of The Paris Review, translated by Joanna Trzeciak:
In the dun-colored sky
A cloud even more dun-colored
With the black outline of the sun.
To the left, that is, to the right
A white cherry branch with black flowers.
On your dark face, light shadows.
You have sat down at a small table
And laid your grayed hands on it.
You give the impression of a ghost
Who attempts to summon the living.
(Because I'm still counted among them,
I should appear and knock:
Good night, that is, good morning,
Farewell, that is, hello.
Not being stingy with questions to any answer
If they concern life,
That is, the storm before the calm.)
August 25, 2011 | by Yevgeniya Traps
The opening lines of “From a Great Mind,” a song by the Siberian folk-punk singer Yanka Dyagileva, run something like this when translated from Russian:
From a great mind, only madness and jail,
From a reckless head, only ditches and barriers,
From a beautiful soul, only scabs and lice,
From universal love, only bloodied physiognomies.
A similar sentiment animates “Ostalgia,” the recently opened exhibit at the New Museum in New York. The name for the show is taken from the German neologism ostalgie, a portmanteau of east and nostalgia meant to evoke a longing for life in East Germany, particularly its daily rituals and their trappings. But the show—and this is probably true of its namesake concept—is not really about a longing for communism. It is rather about the hunger for the kind of meaning that can only emerge from meaning’s suppression. Repressive regimes raise the stakes: under them, art is not something artists are paid to create, but something that extorts a price—perhaps a terrible one—from the artist. Ostalgie is not for the totalitarian government but for the clarity that emerges from the knowledge that great minds risked the gulag, the madhouse, the blindfold, and the rifle with every act of artistic creation. Read More »