Brueghel’s two monkeys­ – a tiny painting by Bruegel, a very short poem by Szymborska and the biggest problems of mankind

Piotr Kołodziej, Poland, ID LLCE2016-349;      There is a great power in works of art. Art provides knowledge about human experience, which is not available in another way. Art gives answers to the most important and eternal questions about humanity, even though these answers are never final. Sometimes it happens that works of some artists encourage or provoke a reaction of other artists. Thanks to this in history of culture – across borders of time and space – there lasts a continuous dialogue, a continuous reflection on the essence of human existence.

This text shows a fragment of such a dialogue, in which the interlocutors are a sixteenth-century painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder and a twentieth-century poet and Nobel Prize winner Wislawa Szymborska. Szymborska, proposing a masterful interpretation of a tiny painting by Bruegel, poses dramatic questions about human freedom, formulates a poetic response and forces a recipient to reflect on the most important topics.

This text also brings up a question of a word – picture relationship, a problem of translation of visual signs to verbal signs, as well as a problem of translation of poetry from one language to another. The author of this text also explains how to use works of art (painting, literature) in humanistic education.

Key words: literature, painting, word – picture relationship, Wisława Szymborska, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, humanistic education, freedom and enslavement