Polish Nobel poet Szymborska dies, aged 88 | Culture | Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 01.02.2012

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Polish Nobel poet Szymborska dies, aged 88

Wislawa Szymborska, the 1996 Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet, has lost her battle with lung cancer. Szymborska died in her sleep at her home in Krakow.

Die polnische Lyrikerin Wislawa Szymborska am 15.10.1996 bei einem Spaziergang durch Krakau, wo sie seit 1931 zurückgezogen lebt. Die 73jährige, Trägerin renommierter internationaler Auszeichnungen wie dem Goethe-Preis der Stadt Frankfurt und dem Herder-Preis, wird am 10.12. in Stockholm mit dem Nobelpreis für Literatur ausgezeichnet. Mit insgesamt neun Gedichtbänden, die in den mehr als 50 Jahren ihres poetischen Schaffens in Polen entstanden sind, hat sich Szymborska den unangefochtenen Ruf der ersten Dame der polnischen Poesie erworben. Ihre Rede zur Verleihung des Goethe-Preises 1991 stand unter dem für ihr Werk wegweisenden Motto Ich schätze Zweifel.

"Whatever inspiration is, it's born from a continuous 'I don't know'"

Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature, died in her sleep on Wednesday in her Krakow home. The 88-year-old, who also won the coveted German Goethe Prize in 1991, had been writing for six decades and was arguably Poland's most famous poet. She had been suffering from lung cancer.

Her first published poem, released in 1945 in the Polish daily Dziennik Polski, was called "I am Looking for a Word."

The 1996 Nobel award committee's citation described Szymborska as the "Mozart of poetry," saying she mixed the elegance of language with "the fury of Beethoven," while also tackling serious subjects with humor.

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said on Twitter that her death was an "irreparable loss to Polish culture."

Evolving allegiances

Szymborska was born in Bnin, central Poland, in 1923. She avoided deportation to a Nazi labor camp in 1939 by working as a railroad employee.

Her early works praised Poland's then Communist government, describing it as realism. She later became disillusioned with politics, leaving the Communist party and denouncing her early works in 1966. She then turned her focus to more everyday subjects like love, death and the passing of time.

In a 1996 interview with the New York Times, Szymborska said her early, political works were well-meaning but ultimately misguided.

"I did it out of love for mankind. Then I came to understand that you should not love mankind, but rather like people," she said.

Szymborska's verse was usually short and simple at first glance, but with an underlying subtlety and beauty. Perhaps fittingly, therefore, one of the subjects she most famously addressed was an onion.

Before winning the Nobel Prize, Szymborska was a relative unknown outside Poland. Since then, many of her volumes of poetry have been translated into over a dozen languages. Works available in English include "View With a Grain of Sand," "People on a Bridge" and "Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts: Seventy Poems."

msh/ng (AP, dpa)

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