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The magic of reading
Adam Zagajewski Poet
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Dla mnie bardzo wcześnie zaczyna się magia książki – czytanie, czytanie książek, najprzód oczywiscie tych książek dla dzieci, młodzieży. Lektura Sienkiewicza z wypiekami na policzkach, lektura Juliusza Verne’a, którego uwielbiałem, zwłaszcza Dzieci Kapitana Granta, właściwie wszystko. Winnetou, ale też Fenimore Cooper i Skórzana pończocha. Bo to jest też okres, kiedy – do '56 roku właściwie – na rynku księgarskim są tylko sowieckie powieści dla dzieci i młodzieży, które też zdołałem częściowo przeczytać – nie wszystkie, ale sporo, jak Samotny, biały żagiel czy Młodą gwardię zapewne czytałem. I one były piękne, dlatego że one były kompletnie zakłamane i mówiły tylko o szlachetnych ludziach, o szlachetnych komunistach. Wydawały zapach właśnie szlachetności, dobra, o obozach. O gułagu nie było ani słowa. No ale... ale właśnie październik zmienia to, że nagle się otwierają wrota cenzury czy... czy polityki kulturalnej i zachodnia literatura wchodzi. Moja siostra czyta Anię z Zielonego Wzgórza, ja czytam Verne’a i nie ma jeszcze telewizji. To znaczy nie ma w Polsce albo u nas w domu – u nas w domu się dość późno pojawiła. Tak że książka króluje, książka jest tym niesamowitym oknem na świat, na wyobraźnię. Pamiętam takie zimowe wieczory, kiedy pada śnieg – całe miasto zasypane śniegiem, a ja siedzę i czytam. Nie wiem właśnie dlaczego zawsze Verne’a, dlaczego czytam Dzieci kapitana Granta. Na pewno czytałem też inne rzeczy. No ten Sienkiewicz... ale Sienkiewicza to czytam, jak miałem grypę i Potop mi się kojarzy z grypą, z takim właściwie z jednej strony nieszczęściem, że jestem... że się źle czuję, że jestem trochę chory, a z drugiej strony wielkie szczęście, że nie muszę iść do szkoły i czytam o Kmicicu – to jest najwspanialsza rzecz.

The magic of books came to me very early on – reading books starting, of course, with books for children, for young adults. I read Sienkiewicz feverishly, Jules Verne whom I adored, especially In Search of the Castaways, in fact everything. Winnetou but Fenimore Cooper, too, the Leatherstocking Tales. This was a time when – until '56 – the only reading matter available in the shops for children and young adults was Soviet literature. I managed to read some of them, not all but quite a few like The Lonely White Sail or The Young Guard which I'm sure I read. They were beautiful books because they were full of falsehoods and spoke only about noble people, noble communists. They had about them the odour of nobility, of goodness. There wasn't a word about the camps, the gulags.

But then October changed all of that and suddenly either the censor's gates were flung open or cultural politics became more open, and Western literature could enter. My sister read Anne of Green Gables, I was reading Verne. Television hadn't yet made an appearance. I mean, it hadn't appeared in Poland or at least not in our house – it was quite late coming to our house. And so books reigned, they were an extraordinary window onto the world, into the imagination. I remember winter evenings with snow falling outside – the entire city was blanketed with snow while I was sitting there just reading. I don't know why I always read Verne and why I read especially In Search of the Castaways. I'm sure I read other things as well. There was Sienkiewicz, but I read Sienkiewicz when I had the flu and so I associate Potop with the flu: on the one hand, I was miserable because I wasn't feeling well, I was a bit poorly, but on the other hand, I was really happy that I didn't have to go to school and could read about Kmicic – that was brilliant.

Adam Zagajewski (b. 1945 in Lwów) is a Polish poet, novelist, translator and essayist. He was awarded the 2004 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition Award and the 2017 Princess of Asturias Award for Literature. He is considered as one of the leading poets of the Generation of '68 or the Polish New Wave (Polish: Nowa fala) and is one of Poland's most prominent contemporary poets.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: Henryk Sienkiewicz, Jules Verne

Duration: 2 minutes, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2018

Date story went live: 25 April 2019