Language, like magic, can be used for so many purposes. It can enchant and exhort, spellbind and captivate, charm and instigate. It is a tool and a toy, a key and a weapon. Languages are never-ending experiments, a kind of sorcery abundant in concoctions of symbols, rhetorical potions and grammatical spells. The most powerful of sorcerers, a polyglot, is able to conjure a plethora of powers and amalgamate ingredients at will. For those of you living in Poland and fluent in any variation of English, you’ll be delighted to know there’s a new grimoire (book of spells), which includes a glossary of the occult arts of the Polish language and a unique insight into Polish culture.
Quarks, Elephants & Pierogi: Poland in 100 Words is the first book put together and published by Culture.pl, the flagship online brand of the Polish organism anointed as the promotor of Polish culture worldwide, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. The book is a carefully curated compilation of 100 Polish words, each of which is explained, discussed and narrated. An inviting and fun read, it is a “rich appetiser for those wanting to go even deeper” into Polish.
An essential ingredient of its charm are the illustrations by Magda Burdzyńska. Using a rather discreet but poignant tricolour palette, her minimalistic designs feature an array of geometric and at times manneristic shapes that reveal an acute sense of form, surface and space, not to mention a strong dose of Polishness.
I’ve been living in Kraków most of my adult life, and the miłość I profess for the
miasto has gone through a long process of maceration. I strongly believe, however, that the Polish język has been the emollient in my relationship with Poland and the Polish people. Allegedly one of the hardest languages to learn, it is a beautiful podróż and one I am happily still in.
For those of us who live in Poland, these pages will definitely assist us in our daily
chleb. If you live abroad but carry Poland with you, this książka will certainly be an accompanying amulet. So, whether you’re a young apprentice or a versed wizard of Polish, if you believe in magic this book is for you.