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Wislawa Szymborska Published by: Harcourt Brace, 2002 Strony / Pages: 233, hard cover ISBN: 0-15-100660-1
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From Publishers Weekly
Szymborska's Nobel Prize for literature in 1996 recognized her achievement in poetry. This collection of short prose responses ("I couldn't write reviews and didn't even want to") to 94 books proves a luminous and inspiring set of readerly reports-sharp, digressive, joyous-that provide insight into the poet's process of intake and synthesis. The pieces don't so much describe the books in question as take off from them, riffing and meditating on their contents. "The world is full of all sorts of sleeping powers-but how can you know in advance which may be safely released and which should be kept under lock at all costs?" she asks after reading Karel Capek's 1936 novel The War with the Newts, a sort of 1984 meets The Lord of the Flies. "One hundred minutes for your own beauty? Every day? You can't always indulge in such luxuries, my dear vain, dizzy, professionally employed, married friend with children," is her wry response to One Hundred Minutes for Beauty by Zofia Wedrowska, fourth edition, Warsaw: Sport I Turystyka, 1978. "We all know that a gesture repeated too often grows trite and loses its deeper meaning," she writes of Kathleen Keating's A Little Book of Hugs, but notes that "Miss Keating is an American, and enthusiasm comes to her more easily." Readers will find it comes just as easily to them via this varied collection by a keen reader and thinker.

From Library Journal
Unknown to most Americans until she won the 1996 Nobel Prize in literature, Polish writer Szymborska is primarily a poet. This collection of short prose pieces features book reviews she wrote while working as a columnist. Addressing a wide range of subjects, from the ancient Romans to the modern-day handyman, the reviews reflect her eclectic tastes and poetic sensibility. Unafraid to take an unpopular position, she, as a smoker, complains about the American penchant for demonizing anyone who cannot break the habit. In another piece, she reviews a book on early medical practices, pointing out that Louis XIV must have had an unusually resilient constitution to withstand the 2000 enemas and numerous bloodlettings to which he was subjected. On a weightier note, she tackles the question of why some civilizations succeed while others do not, given that humanity started out more or less the same. The skillful simplicity and lyric quality of these essays make them distinctive. With her poet's gift for compression, Szymborska captures large concepts and brilliantly reduces them to pithy, two-page essays. Strongly recommended for public and academic libraries.

From Booklist
Like many writers who survived the horrors of World War II, and in the case of Eastern European and Russian poets, Stalinism, Nobel laureate Szymborska insists on clarity and directness in her writing, and evinces, too, a ready wit and a wholly personal point of view. Her poetry is treasured the world over, but unbeknownst to most American readers, Szymborska is also a literary columnist, and several decades' worth of her brilliantly arch and pithy essays are deftly translated and gathered in this pleasurable volume in all their vivacious unpredictability and radiant intelligence. Refusing to do the dutiful work of a reviewer or critic, Szymborska freely revels in reading books, which she describes as "the most glorious pastime that humankind has yet devised." Following her fancy, Szymborska writes with verve and imagination about books on plate tectonics, wallpaper, birds, gladiators, Vermeer, Ella Fitzgerald, hugs, plants, and our "cosmic solitude" as the only planet fizzing with life. Szymborska enters each essay at an oblique and thrillingly subversive angle, and exits with a dazzling flourish, having coolly yet profoundly altered her readers' perceptions. Donna Seaman

Book Description
Wislawa Szymborska's poems are admired around the world, and her unsparing vision, tireless wit, and deep sense of humanity are cherished by countless readers. Unknown to most of them, however, Szymborska also worked for several decades as a columnist, reviewing a wide variety of books under the unassuming title "Nonrequired Reading."

As readers of her poems would expect, the short prose pieces collected here are anything but ordinary. Reflecting the author's own eclectic tastes and interests, the pretexts for these ruminations range from books on wallpapering, cooking, gardening, and yoga, to more lofty volumes on opera and world literature. Unpretentious yet incisive, these charming pieces are on a par with Szymborska's finest lyrics, tackling the same large and small questions with a wonderful curiosity.

About the Author
WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA was born in 1923 in Krakow, Poland, where she lives today. An editor, translator, poet and columnist, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996.

Absent-Minded Professors: Anecdotes about great people make for bracing reading. All right, the reader thinks, so I didn't discover chloroform, but I wasn't the worst student in my class, as Liebig was. Of course I wasn't the first to find salvarsan, but at least I'm not as scatterbrained as Ehrlich, who wrote letters to himself. Mendeleev may be light-years ahead of me as far as the elements go, but I'm far more restrained and better groomed regarding hair. And did I ever forget to show up at my own wedding like Pasteur? Or lock the sugar bowl up to keep my wife out, like Laplace? By comparison with such scientists, we do indeed feel slightly more reasonable, better bred, and perhaps even higher-minded as regards daily living. Moreover, from our vantage point, we know which scientist was right and which was shamefully mistaken. How innocuous someone like Pettenhoffer, for example, seems to us today! Pettenhoffer was a doctor who ferociously battled the findings on bacteria's pathogenetic powers. When Koch discovered the comma bacillus of cholera, Pettenhoffer publicly swallowed a whole testtubeful of these unpleasant microbes in order to demonstrate that the bacteriologists, with Koch at their helm, were dangerous mythomaniacs. This anecdote gains particular luster from the fact that nothing happened to Pettenhoffer. He kept his health and scornfully flaunted his triumph until the end of his days. Why he wasn't infected remains a mystery for medicine. But not for psychology. From time to time people do appear who have a particularly strong resistance to obvious facts. Oh, how pleasant and honorable not to be a Pettenhoffer!
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MONOLOGUE OF A DOG - NEW POEMS - Bilingual Edition Wislawa Szymborska Published by: Harcourt, 2006 Strony / Pages: 96, hard cover ISBN: 0-15-101220-2
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MIRACLE FAIR Wislawa Szymborska Published by: WW NORTON & COMPANY, 2001 Strony / Pages: 159, hard cover ISBN: 0-393-04939-6
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