“For one human being to love another,” Rilke wrote to a young friend, “that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks… the work for which all other work is but preparation.”
Two generations later, the Polish Nobel laureate Wisława Szymborska (July 2, 1923–February 1, 2012) — another visionary poet with uncommon insight into the human psyche — examined the forbearance and hardiness of heart that love requires in a beautiful short piece simply titled “Great Love,” found in her Nonrequired Reading (public library) — a collection of Szymborska’s short, soaring essays inspired by various books she devoured during one voracious reading binge in the 1970s.
After reading the extraordinary memoir of the love of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s life, Anna — the record of one of history’s truest and most beautiful loves, in the course of which Anna buoyed Fyodor through an inordinate share of hardship that would have sunk most — Szymborska reflects…
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