Bookworming, Personalness

100 Years of Poland (the Literary Edition)

On 11th November Poland celebrated 100 years of independence which was a grand occasion – and I’m only writing this post now because my time management sucks these days, what with nursing and working.

This post has been inspired by my friend A’s celebration on Facebook, where he listed his favorite Polish music albums (hi, A). What music is to him, books are to me and I decided to celebrate (belatedly) with writing about something I actually thought a lot before. See, I read almost exclusively in English these days and I have for quite a few years now. So I wondered the experience of reading which books and authors I would actually miss if I didn’t speak any Polish. Here’s the list:

  1. We’ll get more serious than that but I will start with Małgorzata Musierowicz. She was my introduction to YA before I even knew the term or could be considered any sort of adult (I was 7 when I got one of her books for Christmas and fell in absolute love). She’s been writing for some 40 years now a series of books centered around one family and their friends. The newer books are arguably not up to the level of the older ones and you can certainly have a lot of complaints about the details of the story but it didn’t matter to me then: instead I was delighted to find a book reflecting the world I lived in. See, the great innovation of Musierowicz was the fact that she placed the romantic and family adventures of her heroines in the realistically described world of Poland as it was: first the People’s Republic, then the 90s transformation (which happened to be my childhood experience) but kept it cheerful and optimistic. I still return to those books regularly because if you know one thing about my reading habits, you know I like reading to be fun.
  2. From now on we’re moving to what will feel like a required reading for school but only because these books belong to the canon for a good reason. I’m starting with my absolute literary, theatrical, all-around favorite: Wesele by Stanisław Wyspiański. This alone is a reason enough to cherish one’s knowledge of Polish because the play is untranslatable: both its poetry and its historical context make it exclusively Polish. But it’s such a beauty and I used to know most of it by heart, I swear.
  3. And if we’re speaking of poetic plays, here’s another: Balladyna by Juliusz Słowacki. Słowacki is one of the most cherished Polish writers for his patriotic poetry but Balladyna is different: it’s a sort of Polish folk take on Shakespeare and it’s quite delightful. I read it first as a kid and liked it already without getting the whole context (same with Wesele, actually) – which confirms my theory that you can read good literature at almost any age and intellectual level and get something from it.
  4. Chłopi by Władysław Reymont is actually a Nobel Prize winner so a little less obscure outside of Poland than the rest of them. This story happening in the 19th century countryside can rival the best of 19th century novelists (yes, even Hardy and I love Hardy). It’s written partly in a peasant dialect and I don’t believe it translates very well.
  5. Another 19th century novelist who can rival any of the greats is Bolesław Prus, with his historical novel about Egypt (Faraon) and my personal favorite: Emancypantki. I guess some of British classic novels provide similar levels of enjoyment but Prus still belongs on the list of writers I’d be sorry to miss.
  6. Moving on to the 20th century again, Marek Hłasko and his short stories. I’ve outgrown them somewhat but my first encounter with them was such a revelation that he defined for me what a writer should be like, to such an extent that for a while I thought in his sentences.
  7. For someone who’s at best lukewarm about poetry I sure put a lot of poets here but that’s because they suffer most in translation. One of the most original and charming Polish poets is Bolesław Leśmian, who created a whole mythical, fairy-tale world through his poetry. He was also my dad’s favorite poet so that gives him extra points.
  8. Leopold Tyrmand’s Zły is this weird picaresque novel happening in post-war Warsaw and I guess you can live well enough without knowing it but you’re missing a good book.
  9. Witold Gombrowicz. His are some of the most ambitious books on this list, particularly as he embraced the 20th century’s opaqueness of literature – in other words these are books to study rather than just enjoy. But the way he plays both with language and with patriotic ideas and obsessions of his predecessors makes it for fun, iconoclastic reading.
  10. Finally something slightly different: a tribute to my childhood reading, the poetry of Jan Brzechwa. If I didn’t speak any Polish, I would probably know enjoyable children’s poetry in whatever language I would speak, but Brzechwa is in a class of his own, with his joy and his absurdity.

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Personalness

Carrie-ing On

My schedule is crazy stuffed this week so even though I have more reviews, they are not quite finished and instead I will share a PS for this post: an illustrated celebration of Carrie’s fashion sense in Sex and the City. The whole re-watch happened actually so that I could finish this poster for the 20th anniversary of the show and it took so much more time than I expected but I had a lot of fun (that’s what passes for fun around this household, folks). You can read and see more on our design blog.

sex-city-redesign-promo-square

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Celebrations, Personalness

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: New Year’s Eve

Happy New Year! May it be cheerful, joyful, peaceful and successful, basically chock-full of all the good stuff in life. Let’s talk

er-newyearseveNew Year’s Eve (parties)

Category: Events

Find it on: 31st December

What it is:
The celebration of the fact that another year has passed and the new one is bringing with it very new possibilities, usually accompanied with too much alcohol.

How I found it:
When I was first aware of the tradition of New Year’s Eve parties, I was a kid spending them with my grandparents and my brother and wishing I had an actual party to go to. In hindsight though, the ones with my grandparents were more lively and exciting than most parties I attended in later years.

Summary judgment:
If you follow the tradition, New Year’s Eve sucks. If you don’t, it’s pretty awesome.

Best things about it:
I’m a very conventional person in that I like conventional celebrations. But with New Year’s Eve the pressure is usually too high and you end up disappointed with whatever party you end up at. So quite a few years ago we turned the table completely and started spending each 31st December with our friends A&Z: we dress up, make good food and play games all night long, with a short break for midnight good wishes and champagne that nobody really likes. It’s always fun.

Worst things about it:
Whenever I went to a more conventional New Year’s Eve party I usually ended up displeased with one aspect of it or another. In fact, I can only think of a handful when I had any fun. I blame the high expectations.

Other pluses:
It’s a special day in a calendar. I like those almost without exceptions. While not an official holiday, it still makes you feel the excitement in the air.

Other minuses:
✤ Fireworks should be limited to an hour before and after midnight. Not a month.
✤ And don’t get me started on all the mess people leave on the streets, of which burnt out fireworks are perhaps the least annoying thing.

How it enriched my life:
We barely have time to play regular boardgames now so on New Year’s Eve we get to catch up on some new ones and some old favorites. I also get to wear shiny things which don’t make sense in more casual outfits (and I seem to have surprisingly many shiny things).

Fun fact:
I think currently our record of games played on one evening is five. I might be wrong though.

Follow-up:
Hopefully, next year’s party will be quite as relaxing as all the previous ones.

Recommended for:
Actual parties are recommended for whoever likes them. Our kind of parties only for those self-aware enough to realize that it’s precisely what they need.

Enjoyment:
At best up to  ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆  if you go to a regular party.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★  if you choose something more specifically pleasing.

Next time: Bridget Jones’s Diary

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Celebrations, Personalness

Birthday!

Happy birthday to me.

I’m leaving for a short vacation next week but there will be one pre-scheduled post. And then I already have a whole queue of things to review and the vacation is sure to bring some more. So stay tuned and have a great weekend!

Also, since I never get to say it in the reviews, thank you for the likes and follows. Every one means a world to me. X!

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Celebrations

Have Yourselves a Yummy Christmas

redesign-xmas2015Here I am, not gone from blogging for ever but certainly for a while. I’ve got a better explanation than usual: since September I’m a mom and it leaves little time for writing (or even – gasp – reading) and so until I arrange things better I’m doing the bare minimum. At any rate, we baked ginger cookies (see above) and made the Christmas card (likewise) so maybe things are getting back on track. At any rate, have a wonderful Christmas time and I’ll be posting whenever I can.

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