Wislawa Szymborska

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Wislawa Szymborska


Szymborska let her poetry avoid the moral and political questions posed by her contemporaries of postwar reality, taking instead the naive question as a starting point. Unlike many of her counterparts, Szymborska prefers to regard the world at arm's length, detached, as if it were an object at once familiar and mysterious.

On the individual level we can say the ends justify the means because an abusive spouse doesn't directly affect the larger social group. The individual's contributions to the broader human experience can somehow outweigh their atomic family damage. Or so we tell ourselves, when incubated from dealing with the suffering of the afflicted.


Dehumanization is the process of stripping away human qualities, such as denying others their individuality and self-esteem. With the rapid increase in medical technology many basic human qualities surrounding the care of the dying have been lost. Dehumanization is like a form of self-death that now often precedes physiological death owing to the institutionalization of the dying. For millennia the process of dying and the presence of death were both close and familiar realities of everyday life.

Dehumanization methods can also be seen in other controversial areas. Those who support the rights of women to seek abortions, for example, rarely use the words baby or child in their literature. Using more clinical terms, such as fetus, could be seen as an effort to dehumanize an important element of the issue. Conversely, pro-life supporters may use dehumanization methods to reduce the staff members of a health clinic to uncaring baby killers. Dehumanization as a propaganda tool can work both ways.

In addressing the absurdity of human existence, though, Szymborska never abandons humanity for the sake of intellectual exercises. Szymborska concerns herself seriously with fundamentally human questions, and in doing so she raises her poetry to level of universal appeal. Szymborska's compact poems often conjure large existential puzzles, touching on issues of ethical import, and reflecting on the condition of people both as individuals and as members of human society. Individualism is a moral principle intending to protect humans from drowning in the masses, from enslavement, from authoritarian regimes, statistics and so on. It is a means of withdrawing from oppression and dictatorships such as we experienced under Stalinism and Fascism. Just like other scarcely palpable concepts as freedom, friendship and love, individualism is impossible to define, but only when we must go without it can we recognise and appreciate it. In this sense the writings of dissidents are particularly worth pointing to.

Strong relativism and openness are well known to be important dimensions in the temporal sphere at the basis of Wislawa Szymborska's poetry. The way, in which she links the past with the present, the present with what is to come and the event/experience of a moment with the weightless dimension of eternity is what gives this poetry its greatest strength. Dehumanization is an effective propaganda tool when used skillfully. In the case of capital punishment, for instance, details of the convicted prisoner's crime are often given more media ...
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