The Nobel Prize in Literature 1996
Born: 2 July 1923, Bnin (now Kórnik), Poland
Died: 1 February 2012, Kraków, Poland
Residence at the time of the award: Poland
Prize motivation: “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”
Prize share: 1/1
Wisława Szymborska was born in Bnin (now part of Kórnik), close to the city of Poznan, Poland. She was the youngest in a family of two daughters. Szymborska began writing short stories and songs as a child, and made her poetic debut in 1945. She married Adam Wlodek and the pair lived in a writers' collective in Krakow. The couple divorced in 1954, but remained friends. Alongside her writing career Szymborska has also held various positions working for literary journals, such as Zycie Literackie and Pismo, and as a translator of older French poetry.
Wisława Szymborska's poetry addressed existential questions. It is unique among its kind and does not easily lend itself to categorization. Szymborska strives to illuminate the deepest problems of human existence, surrounded by the transitoriness of the now and everyday life. She weaves in the machinery of eternity in a momentary experience of the here and now. Her poetry is characterized by a simplified, “personal” language that is unlike contemporary language, often with a little twist at the end, with a striking combination of spirituality, ingenuity, and empathy.
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