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Nonrequired Reading

Prose Pieces

Wislawa Szymborska, Clare Cavanagh (Translated by)


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Wislawa Szymborska's poems are admired around the world, and her unsparing vision, tireless wit, and deep sense of humanity are cherished by countless readers. Unknown to most of them, however, Szymborska also worked for several decades as a columnist, reviewing a wide variety of books under the unassuming title "Nonrequired Reading."

As readers of her poems would expect, the short prose pieces collected here are anything but ordinary. Reflecting the author's own eclectic tastes and interests, the pretexts for these ruminations range from books on wallpapering, cooking, gardening, and yoga, to more lofty volumes on opera and world literature. Unpretentious yet incisive, these charming pieces are on a par with Szymborska's finest lyrics, tackling the same large and small questions with a wonderful curiosity.

Praise For Nonrequired Reading: Prose Pieces


"She teaches us how the world defies and evades the names we give it."--Edward Hirsch, The New York Times Magazine

"[Szymborska] is unquestionably one of the great living European poets. She's accessible and deeply human and a joy--though it is a dark kind of joy--to read. . . . She is a poet to live with."--Robert Hass, The Washington Post Book World

"Wislawa Szymborska is not only one of the finest poets living today, but also one of the most readable."--Charles Simic

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780151006601, 256pp.

Publication Date: October 28, 2002

About the Author

WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA (1923–2012) was born in Poland and worked as a poetry editor, translator, and columnist. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996.

CLARE CAVANAGH, professor of Slavic and comparative literature at Northwestern, has received a PEN Translation Award for her work, with Stanislaw Baranczak, on Szymborska's poetry.