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Why Polish Literature

Poland is the best place for books -- for two reasons.

Poland is the best place for books -- for two reasons.

First, as a minor European nation, it feels sorely isolated at the edge of the continent (further east, there be bears). It tries to fight off this sense of isolation by translating—well and immediately—tons of World literature, pretty much as it happens. It is, therefore, an excellent place in which to pick up the most recent, say, Hungarian, or Finnish, or Peruvian, or Serbian, or Argentinian literature; plus a lot of second-rank French and German and Italian stuff—the sort which simply never appears in English at all.

Little and remote Warsaw thus has one of the most international publishing industries, by comparison with which the major western literary centers—New York, say, or Frankfurt, seem a little, well, shall we say—provincial (i.e., stewing in their own sauces). And thus, when Kapuscinski’s translators tried to get his (now best-selling) Emperor published in America, they heard from their American agents, with incredulity: “You want to publish in America a book on Ethiopia written by a Pole?” But Poles translate and publish and read any good book, even those written by Americans about El Salvador. For them, any good book, is a book worth reading.

Poles also read a great deal. According to Statista, Americans between 20 and 34 spend an average of 6.6 minutes reading per day. Brits and Germans, 6-7 minutes. The super-literary French... 2 minutes. And Poles... 12 minutes. This medium sized nation of 36 million, publishes 35,000 new titles a year.


No wonder then that little Poland has three general interest literary magazines dedicated to something called “World Literature” (literary events outside the home stadium) while America has... none. Of all the world capitals known to me, perhaps only Paris compares in the international richness of its publishing offer. 

And second, and as a consequence, Poland has its own very worldly literature, informed by all the most recent literary goings in the West (and East and South), open and responsive to all global trends and ideas, and yet barely known outside its borders: a hidden treasure chest to discover.

Both are excellent reasons to buy books in Poland. Both are an excellent reason for you to browse here.

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