My first proper literary memory is of watching Wisława Szymborska’s Nobel Prize speech on television with my grandparents. I was six years old and I can recall only feelings and images related to that moment. My family felt much pride about the poet. Szymborska was not merely a greatwriter, she was our great writer. Poland was still facing challenges after regaining its independence, and Szymborska’s Nobel Prize was a big deal for us—a sign that our literature and thus our country matter on the world stage. It was my first lesson in how literature shapes the way in which a country understands itself and through which our relationship to a country is shaped. This was reflected in how Polish was taught to me at school—there was an emphasis on historical texts that in one way or another spoke to Polish national self-determination, such as Adam Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz or Henry Sienkiewicz’s historical novels.
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