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Miracle Fair


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Wislawa Szymborska is the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and her translator, Joanna Trzeciak is the winner of the Heldt Prize for Translation in Slavic Studies.

About the Author

Wislawa Szymborska was born in Western Poland in 1923. Her poems have been translated (and published in book form) in many international languages. She is the Goethe Prize winner (1991) and Herder Prize winner (1995). She has a degree of Honorary Doctor of Letters of Poznan University (1995). In 1996 she received the Polish PEN Club prize, and is the1996 Nobel Laureate in Literature. Joanna Trzeciak's translations include Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska, winner of the Heldt Translation Prize. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio. Czeslaw Milosz won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980.


Szymborska has been faithfully translated by the team of Clare Cavanagh and Polish poet Stanislaw Baranczak; their modest and unobtrusive translations have helped to elucidate the work of Szymborska, little known outside Poland before winning the Nobel Prize in 1996. This new collection by professional translator Trzeciak has an entirely different tone, starting with a swaggering preface that declares that several poems here Englished "had been deemed untranslatable" and asserts that the poet's work "is well represented here." Would that this were true. Instead, by sticking to rhyme in English, these versions too often adopt the jog-trot of doggerel, as in "A Man's Household": "...squeezed-out tubes, dried-out glue,/ jars big and small where something already grew,/ an assortment of pebbles, a little anvil, a vise,/ an alarm clock that's already been broken twice..." (The repetition of "already" is typical of the translator's prosy choices.) In less strict forms, the sparer verses of this poet the other Polish Nobel laureate, Czeslaw Milosz, rightly calls in a preface "very grim," read acceptably in English. But far too often, and in particularly sensitive verses, the rhymes are clumsy and banal, as in "Still," about the Holocaust: "Nathan's name bangs his fist on the wall./ Isaac's name sings in a maddened thrall." (A maddened what?, the reader feels like asking.) A couple of these poems reveal a linguistic brightness even in English, like the witty "Rubens' Women," but this handful does not justify a whole collection. (Apr.) Forecast: With a collected (Poems New and Collected 1957-1997) and selected (View with a Grain of Sand) from Cavanagh and Baranczak, Szymborska remains extremely well served. This volume may appeal to completists looking for the few poems found here and not elsewhere. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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