Wisława Szymborska: Biography

Wisława Szymborska

02 jul 1923

Maria Wislawa Anna Szymborska was born in Prowent, Poland in 1923. She worked as a poet, translator and essayist and was the 1996 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

After the beginning of World War II, Szymborska was able to continue her education in classes which were held underground. From 1943, aged 20, she began to work as a railroad employee and so escaped being sent to Germany as forced labour. Whilst working in this job she started to illustrate textbooks and began to write short stories and poetry. In 1945, at the end of the war, she was able to enrol in University, but she was unable to finish her degree because of her financial situation.

Her first book of poetry was supposed to be publishing in 1949, but it was not allowed to be printed and circulated as it did not pass censorship regulations in soviet Russia. Her earlier works support the socialist regime, but as time went on, she began to distance herself from the party until she officially left in 1966.

She has been described as the ‘Mozart of poetry’ and in her native Poland, her books have reached a very similar height of sales as those of eminent and respected prose writers. She has had her work translated into most European languages along with Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Hebrew.

Wislawa Szymborska died in Krakow in her own home aged 88. She was working and writing right up until her death, but her final collection was published a few months after her death in 2012.