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Feuilletons | Monika Gapińska

Let's play like Szymborska!

"In an old-fashioned way, I believe that reading books is the most beautiful game that humanity has conceived", – said Wisława Szymborska, the Nobel Prize laureate. Interestingly, not only did she read works of the highest quality but literally everything. From "Catalog of purebred dogs" through "Gymnastics for women during pregnancy and puerperium", lexicons of food products and "Encyclopedia of Assassinations", to "History of the Middle East in Antiquity", Schubert's biography and Sappho's poetry. This is what interested her. How do we know this? Well, she wrote about the items she read in feuilletons that were published in the press for many years.
The Nobel Prize winner's approach to books came to my mind on the occasion of a unique Valentine's Day event planned for February 14 by the Lentz Villa: "We love books". Those who love reading will have an opportunity to meet writers and each other. Because although reading books is the most beautiful game, as Szymborska rightly believed, talking about literature is another pleasure. Such a conversation now takes on many forms. It can be participation in an author's meeting or chatting with a friend over coffee about this or that, and books as well. But conversations about literature have moved mainly to social media. On Instagram or applications such as Goodreads, crowds of Internet users recommend (or advise against, although it is less frequent) reading a specific book. As it turns out, the number of book bloggers is as large as those who recommend cosmetics for acne-prone skin, ointments for haemorrhoids or baby carriers on their profiles and channels. Under the posts of these literary gurus, there are usually a lot of comments, often becoming a heated discussion about a particular book.

Such profiles and Internet channels have an advantage that Szymborska would probably appreciate: they convince you that reading is great fun. By clicking on bloggers' stories, the young reader (because the young generation mainly constitutes the recipients of Instagram posts) will not feel guilty about not knowing the novels of, for example, Zola, Mann or Pilch. In turn, they will gain recognition when boasting about knowing the works of Sally Rooney, Colleen Hoover or Aneta Jadowska, i.e. the most popular authors of literature nicknamed Young Adult or New Adult.

Meanwhile, with several decades on our backs, many of us often forget about the most beautiful fun reading books offers. So we feel guilty when we reach for the new crime fiction by Bonda or Mróz, a book advertised as the one that was filmed for Netflix or a Christmas novel full of kisses under the mistletoe, instead of the ones that have been waiting for years on the shelf, e.g. "Crime and Punishment" by Tolstoy (sic), Tokarczuk's "Flights" or Myśliwski's "A Treatise on Shelling Beans". We also are in two minds when it comes to choosing what to read – books by finalists of the Nike Literary Award (i.e." high-class" ones) or maybe those nominated for the High-Calibre Award (well, these lie on a slightly "lower shelf"). Why such remorse and unnecessary dilemmas, with which the above-mentioned Nobel laureate had no problems? Probably from the belief instilled in us over many years that there are books an intelligent person should know. Here comes a long list of literary works, on which, by no means, there is a place for "Lesio" by Chmielewska, "Nigdy w Życiu!" by Chemlewska or "Jestem Nudziarą" by Szwaja.

I am sure that Szymborska didn't care about any lists such as "150 books that must be read to get the Great Book Lover badge!" (there really is such a ranking!), "Books That Must Be Read Before You Die," "Books That Should Not Be Missed By Any Bibliophile," "Books That Every Intelligent Man Should Read," and so on and so on ... So let's follow the example of the Nobel Prize winner and have fun reading books, regardless of any rankings!

Monika GAPIŃSKA
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