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review 2015-01-01 14:22
Monumenta Polonica: the first four centuries of Polish poetry : a bilingual anthology - Bogdana Carpenter

For anyone interested in Polish poetry, Bogdana Carpenter's Monumenta Polonica is the perfect introductory volume. This bilingual anthology spans four centuries of Polish literature, from the 14th century to the 18th century, introducing readers to poetry from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque, and the Enlightenment. For the reader who is unfamiliar with the culture and history of Poland, Carpenter opens each epoch with a brief history, giving some historical context to the poems. She has also provided a brief biographical sketch of each of the known authors as well as some analysis of their styles. All of the poems presented in this volume were originally written in Polish, Carpenter chose not included any poetry written in Latin, which may have eliminated some important works. However, despite the omission of Latin works, Carpenter's anthology is still a rich collection that illustrate the wide spectrum of poetry produced during the first centuries of literature in Poland. Of particular note are the Laments of Jan Kochanowski for his beloved daughter Orszula, which were especially touching given the depth of the authors obvious grief. His poems and others within this text are ones that I will return to again and again.

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url 2014-06-13 16:23
Henryk Sienkiewicz's Female Rival for the Nobel Prize 1905

There are many female writers who during their lifetime didn't get the deserved attention and are forgotten as soon as they have breathed their last. On the international level this is certainly true for the Polish novelist Eliza Orzeszkowa although she was not just twice been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but actually very close to winning it both times. In 1905 her fellow-countryman Henryk Sienkiewicz carried off the prestigious award and in 1909 the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf took it home to Sweden.


But who was this Polish woman who competed with the great literary men and women of her time including Leo Tolstoy? However well-remembered she and her work may still be in Poland, outside her country hardly anyone has ever heard of Eliza Orzeszkowa although her writings have long entered into the public domain. Only very few of her books are available in translation, even on Project Gutenberg. This remarkable nineteenth-century novelist definitely deserves better and so I gave her room on my blog Edith's Miscellany.


Click here to read my portrait of this Polish writer!


Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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text 2014-04-16 17:19
MBM #1 - My Bookish Moment - Early Love and Hate with Adam Mickiewicz


I haven't always been a book lovers. Uff, I said it. As a child I didn't hide under the blanket with a book and a flashlight, I didn't invent stories, drew imaginary friends. I was quite shy and calm and fell into a stereotype, played with dolls and teddy bears. 


The passion for words was born steadily and gradually, and bloomed in my adolescence, as many other things. Although my early childhood wasn't full of books and written words (times were different, as was Poland then), I do have a bookish moment from that time.


One of the earliest memory related to books is my grandma. Well, not the granny grandma in a standard way. My grandma was quite young, 43, when I was born, she has always been busy, energetic, and smart woman. And she had a great memory, and I mean really incredible. She still has. She was able to memorize whole pages, every song or poem, it didn't matter how long it was, she could recite it with a proper intonation, tenderness and build such a dramatic atmosphere that the listeners could nearly see and touch the fictional world. 


When I visited my grandparents, usually during weekends or when I overnighted, my grandma used to teach me one of Adam Mickiewicz's ballads - Świtezianka (The Nymph of The Lake Switez).


Mickiewicz was a Polish national poet, dramatist, essayist and a representative of Polish Romanticism in the XIX century (with two other poets, Juliusz Słowacki and Zygmunt Krasiński, they were called The Three Bards). Mickiewicz was a leading Romantic dramatist, compared to Byron and Goethe in Poland and Europe. 


Mickiewicz's Świtezianka (The Nymph of The Lake Switez) is a beautiful poem about a young couple, two love birds who wish to spend the rest of their lives together. As always in the love stories (and XIX century wasn't different in this respect) there's a catch. The youth's faithfulness is put to the test, the girl plays tricks on him and in a disguise tries to seduce him. Unfortunately he doesn't "hold to his oath" and is tempted by a mysterious nymph (the girl herself who turns out to be a real nymph). The youth fails and the punishment is harsh both for his spirit and his body. There's no happy ending. 


BTW: You can read the poem here and feel the tension thanks to the music written by Chopin to this work. 


One would think that neither the theme nor the language (XIX c) is the best pick for a child of 5 or 6. But I loved it. Of course I didn't get the poem but I loved how the words floated, the rhymes, their sound and rhythm. And the graphics were stunning, dramatic but stunning. 




This was the first moment when I appreciated the words.


The moment, however, didn't stop me from hating Mickiewicz in the high school. I didn't like the pompous interpretations of his dramas, "the most important and patriotic texts in the Polish literature" as they repeated over and over again. I just couldn't relate to them and my Polish language teacher didn't offer us any book discussions or let for individualized opinions. The interpretation could be only one. 


No one had ever recited Mickiewicz's works to me as my grandma did. 




cover painting "Świtezianka" Kazimierz Alchimowicz, via Museum of Romanticism

book illustrations via

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